For Rob, Pete and Debbie Siegel,with friendship and gratitudeTable of ContentsCHAPTER PAGEAn End to War................................................................... 11Prologue............................................................................171........................................................................................ 292........................................................................................ 473........................................................................................ 654........................................................................................ 795........................................................................................ 956...................................................................................... 1137...................................................................................... 1338...................................................................................... 1499...................................................................................... 16510...................................................................................... 18311...................................................................................... 20512...................................................................................... 221Epilogue.......................................................................... 247An End to War…On April 1, 2425, Dr. Wolfgang Amadeus Mensinger, professoremeritus at Heinlein University on Dyson One, discoveredtime travel. Already hailed as the greatest scientist of his timefor his formulation of the Unified Field Theory at the age ofeighty-five, Mensinger had been in disfavor with the scientificcommunity for thirty years as a result of steadfastly maintainingthat time travel or, as he preferred to call it, temporal translocation,
was theoretically possible. When he made the announcementon his one hundred and fifteenth birthday, hepromptly became the darling of the media. Had anyone elsecome forth with such a theory, he would have been just anothermild and amusing curiosity, but when the man who hadrelegated Einstein to the league of the also-rans made such apronouncement, people listened.Access to the media had never been a problem for Dr.Mensinger. He was a garrulous, highly articulate, and charmingman with an empathy for the nonscientific mind, whichresulted in his being able to explain complex ideas in a mannerthat the layman could easily understand. He also understoodwhat, traditionally, most scientists did not, that scientificresearch was to a large degree a game of politics.Initially, his theory was received with great excitement bythe media and the masses, while his colleagues in the scientificcommunity reacted with a degree of skepticism that borderedon derision. Most of them felt that the venerable Dr.Mensinger had already done his best work and that in reachingfor a still greater achievement, he had overextended himselfand irresponsibly turned to cheap sensationalism. Themedia, always anxious for an entertaining confrontation, providedcountless opportunities for his critics to attack him, whichTime Wars #3attacks were made more feasible by the simple expedient ofDr. Mensinger’s lacking any proof to back up his assertions.Furious at the treatment accorded him by the media and hispeers, Mensinger went into semiseclusion at the university onDyson, where the administration was more than happy to providesome limited funding for his research in exchange forhaving the famous Dr. Mensinger as a lecturer on its faculty.Professor Mensinger married the daughter of the dean andsettled into the academic life, all the while driving himself withsuperhuman energy to complete his research. As time woreon and results failed to appear, his budget was steadily whittledaway and his health began to decline. He began to grow derelictin his academic responsibilities and the only reason hewas kept on was the value of his name and his relationship tothe dean. His fellow professors liked him, but they looked onhim with pity as a tragic case of burnout. Then, in his hundredand fifty-second year, he developed the first working model ofthe chronoplate.When Mensinger died, fifteen years after he made time travela reality, his work was continued by his son, Albrecht. Unfortunately,by this time, Albrecht was only able to refine hisfather’s work. He no longer had control of the discovery. Thepoliticians had stepped in.On June 15, 2460, the Committee for Temporal Intelligencewas formed. Agents of the committee, after careful trainingand conditioning, began to travel back through time for thepurpose of conducting further research and testing of the apparatus.In the beginning, many of these agents were lost intransit trapped forever in a temporal limbo some governmentofficial had nicknamed “the dead zone,” but those who returnedcame back with often startling information. Historicalrecords had to be revised. Some legends turned out to havebeen fact. Some facts turned out to have been legends. HisThe Pimpernel Plot
torical events that previously lacked documentation were verified.Other events were brought to light. The Theory of Genesiswas refuted and there followed a revolution in the Church,which culminated in a radical proposal made by CardinalConsorti that agents be sent back through time to determine ifChrist actually arose after his crucifixion. A restraining orderwas placed on the Committee for Temporal Intelligence toprevent them from attempting such a thing and CardinalConsorti was excommunicatedOn January 25, 2492, in a historic meeting which becameknown as the Council of Nations, taking place in the capital ofthe United Socialist States of South America, a proposal for an“end to war in our time” was put forth by the chairman of theNippon Conglomerate Empire. Though Dr. AlbrechtMensinger, invited to the council as a guest of honor, arguedpassionately against the resolution, it was passed by an overwhelmingmajority when he was unable to offer conclusiveproof that the past could be affected by actions taken by timetravelers from the present. The past, argued the members ofthe scientific community invited to the conference, cannot bechanged. It had already happened. It was absolute.On December 24, 2492, the Referee Corps was formed,brought into existence by the Council of Nations as anextranational arbitrating body with all power to stage and resolvethe proposed temporal conflicts. On the recommendationof the newly created Referee Corps, a subordinate bodynamed the Observer Corps was created, taking over many ofthe functions of the Committee for Temporal Intelligence,which became the Temporal Intelligence Agency. The TIAabsorbed the intelligence agencies of most of the world’s governmentsand was made directly responsible to the RefereeCorps. Within the next ten years, temporal confrontation actions,presided over by the Referee Corps, began to be staged.The media dubbed them the “Time Wars.”Time Wars #3In September of 2514, Albrecht Mensinger published thework that was to establish him as an even greater genius thanhis father. The conclusions he had reached were also to resultin his eventual total nervous collapse a few years later. Theseconclusions, which resulted in the hastily reconvened Councilof Nations and the Temporal SALT Talks of 2515, were publishedas “Mensinger’s Theories of Temporal Relativity.” Theywere as follows:The Theory of Temporal Inertia. The “current” of thetimestream tends to resist the disruptive influence of temporaldiscontinuities. The degree of this resistance is dependentupon the coefficient of the magnitude of the disruption andthe Uncertainty Principle.The Principle of Temporal Uncertainty. The element of uncertaintyexpressed as a coefficient of temporal inertia representsthe “X factor” in temporal continuity. Absolute determinationof the degree of deviation from the original, undisruptedscenario is rendered impossible by the lack of total accuracyin historical documentation and research (see Heisenberg’sPrinciple of Uncertainty) and by the presence of historicalanomalies as a result either of temporal discontinuities or adjustmentsthereof.The Fate Factor. In the event of a disruption of a magnitudesufficient to affect temporal inertia and create a discontinuity,
the Fate Factor, working as a coefficient of temporal inertia,and the element of uncertainty both already present andbrought about by the disruption, determine the degree of relativecontinuity to which the timestream can be restored, contingentupon the effects of the disruption and its adjustment.The Timestream Split. In the event of a disruption of a magnitudesufficient to overcome temporal inertia, the effects ofthe Fate Factor would be canceled out by the overwhelminginfluence of the resulting discontinuity. The displaced energyof temporal inertia would create a parallel timeline in whichThe Pimpernel Plotthe Uncertainty Principle would be the chief governing factor.Mensinger appeared once again before the Council of Nationsand he formally submitted his publication, along with itssupporting research and conclusions, to the world leaders.Once again he argued passionately, this time for the immediatecessation of the Time Wars. This time, they listened. Resolutionswere made, voted on, and passed. However, the oneresolution Mensinger most wanted to see passed was tableddue to the lack of agreement among the members of the council.Mensinger left the meeting in despair, a broken man. TheTime Wars continued.Time Wars #3The Pimpernel PlotPrologueThe city square was utterly silent as the crowd waited intense, almost reverential anticipation. The only sounds thatbroke the stillness were the praying of the man atop the woodenplatform, the sobbing of his wife at the bottom of the steps,and the squeaking of the pulley as the blade was slowly raised.The man’s prayer was rudely interrupted as he was seized andforced down to his knees, his head jammed into position. Thelever was tripped, there was a brief scraping sound as the bladedescended swiftly and then a duller sound, not unlike that ofan axe sinking into wood. The man’s head fell into the wickerbasket and the crowd roared its approval.Joseph Ignace Guillotin’s device, proposed in the Assemblyby the venerable physician as a “merciful” method of execution,had not been in use for more than a few months, but itsblade had already been thoroughly tempered in the blood ofthe victims of the Revolution. The mob had stormed theTuileries and the Swiss Guards, who had been ordered to ceasefiring by the king, were massacred. Louis XVI was held prisonerwith his family in the old house of the Knights Templarsand the provisional government was in the hands of GeorgesJacques Danton of the Cordeliers. Marie Joseph Paul Yves RochGilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, whose Declarationof the Rights of Man had been hailed and accepted by theNational Assembly as the embodiment of the principles of[[“Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite,”]] had been branded a traitorand had fled for his life to Austria. The bloody September Massacres,in which over one thousand aristocrats would be sacrificedon the altar of the new regime, were underway. Therest of Europe would be deeply shocked at the events in Paris,at Versailles, in Lyons, Rheims, Meaux, and Orleans; however,they were just a prelude to the excesses of the Jacobins under
Time Wars #3Robespierre’s Reign of Terror.With glazed eyes, Alex Corderro watched the man’s decapitatedbody being dragged off the guillotine. The executionerpaused only long enough to give the blade a quick wipe with ared-stained rag before he motioned for the next victim to bebrought up. The dead man’s wife was frogmarched up the steps.She was incapable of standing and had to be held up for thecrowd’s inspection. Once again, the mob fell into an eerie silence.A hungry silence. The woman swayed unsteadily and,for a moment, her eyes came into focus. She saw her husband’shead being dumped out of the wicker basket and she doubledover, vomiting upon the wooden platform. It was all Alex coulddo to keep himself from doing likewise. He had thought thathe would be prepared for this, but it was nothing like what hehad imagined. This was a far cry from Sidney Carton’s romanticlast hurrah in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. This was wholesaleslaughter and Alex Corderro could not bear to watch itany longer. The squeaking of the pulley was like fingernailsscraping on a blackboard and it made him shiver. It wouldhave been, he thought, a far, far better thing had he stayedhome where he belonged, in the 27th century, where suchthings were only to be read about in books and gleaned frominformation retrieval systems, where their graphic reality didnot intrude upon the senses with all the power of a butcher’smaul.Alex was a private in the Temporal Corps. This was his firsthitch to be served in Minus Time. France’s army, the most efficientand progressive fighting force in all of Europe at theRevolution’s start, was in a sad state of decay. The purchase ofcommissions had been abolished and most of the officers,members of the now-despised aristocratic class, had fled thecountry. The Assembly was anxious to rebuild the army, sincewar seemed imminent, and a nationwide call for volunteerswent out, which call would soon be replaced by an order forThe Pimpernel Plotthe conscription of all single men between the ages of 18 and40. This order was to provide, in a few short years, a mightyarmy forNapoleon. Alex was a double volunteer. He had volunteeredfor enlistment in the 27th century and, after trainingand implant education, he had been clocked out to the late1700s, to volunteer again for service in the Revolutionary Army.It had been determined by the Referee Corps that this wouldbe the most effective way to infiltrate soldiers of the TemporalCorps into the French Army, for service in the War of the FirstCoalition.Alex didn’t know why he was going to be fighting, why hewas about to be placed into the front ranks of the war againstAustria and Prussia. Soldiers were never told such things. Heknew only that two major powers in the 27th century had submittedyet another grievance to the extranational Referee Corpsfor arbitration and that temporal units from both sides hadbeen clocked out to the past to fight a “war on paper” on abattleground of history. To those who determined the outcome,it would be a “war on paper.” To the Referees, Alex would bejust another factor in the point spread. For Alex, it would be avery real war; a war in which the odds of his survival would bevery, very low. It was something he had considered when hehad enlisted, but at the time he had dismissed the possibility
of his being killed as quite unlikely. After all, he was a modernman, demonstrably superior to these primitives. He hadthought that it would be a grand adventure. Now he foundthat he no longer felt that way.Paris was not the romantic place he had imagined it to be.He had seen the violence in the streets; he had watched aristocratsbeing wheeled to the guillotine in parades of tumbrelsas the citoyens and citoyennes ran alongside the carts, jeeringat the condemned and pelting them with refuse. He had seenthe blade descend over and over and he had watched the oldknitting women, the tricotteuses, trying to clamber up onto theTime Wars #3platform to get locks of hair from the decapitated heads assouvenirs. He had seen the children jump up and down andclap their hands with glee as the wicker baskets reaped theirgrisly harvest. He had seen too much.Feeling numb, he turned away and began to push throughthe mob, receiving not a few shoves in return as people angrilyrepulsed him for blocking their view of the proceedings.Alex heard the dull sound of the blade severing the woman’shead and cringed, redoubling his efforts to fight his way freeof the crowd. He fought his way clear, stumbling away fromthe Place de la Révolution to wander aimlessly through thecity streets in a state of shock. War was something he couldhandle. This callous, systematic killing, on the other hand, thischopping off of heads methodically, like the slicing of so manystalks of celery, was more than he could take. It brought backan image from his survival training, a graphic image of hisdrill instructor showing the boots how to kill a chicken by bitingdown upon its neck and giving a slight twist, the head comingoff the chicken and still being held in the drill instructor’steeth as he tossed the wildly flapping, thrashing body of thebird into their midst, spattering them with blood and causingseveral of the boots to faint. As he swayed through the streetsof Paris like a drunkard, Corderro imagined the executionerbiting off the heads of the aristocrats and dumping their bodiesoff the platform and into the crowd until the streets werechoked with headless corpses lurching wildly about, knockinginto walls and splashing citizens with blood.He lost track of time. It was growing late and only the increasingflow of people past him told him that the gory festivitieshad ended for the day and that the mass exodus from thesquare had begun. The entertainment was not yet finished forthe day however. There was still more sport ahead, perhapsnot as dramatic, but equally significant for the participants.He was caught up in the current of the crowd and carried toThe Pimpernel Plotthe West Barricade, like a paper ship floating in a river. There,the portly Sergeant Bibot of the Revolutionary Army conductedthe evening’s entertainment.Each afternoon and evening, just before the gates closed forthe night, a parade of market carts lined up to leave the city,bound for farms in the outlying districts. Each afternoon andevening, desperate aristocrats who had fled their homes to gointo hiding in some corner of the city tried to steal out of Parisin order to escape the wrath of the Republic. Seeking to evadethe clutches of the Committee of Public Safety and the bloodthirstypublic prosecutor, Citoyen Fouquier-Tinville, they tried
to sneak out past alert soldiers such as Sergeant Bibot and fleethe country to find safe haven in England, Austria, or Prussia.Their pathetic ruses seldom worked. Though they tried to disguisethemselves as beggars, merchants, farmers, men dressingup as women and women dressing up as men, their lack ofexperience in such subterfuges invariably resulted in theirapprehension. They were arrested and marched off to confinement,to await their appearance before the public prosecutor,which without exception was followed by a humiliatingride through the streets of Paris in the two-wheeled tumbrelsand a short walk up a flight of wooden steps into thewaiting arms of Madame la Guillotine. To the once-proud aristocratswho tried to sneak out through the city gates, it was afinal, desperate gamble. To the citizens of the Republic whothronged to the barricades to watch their efforts, it was a delightfulgame.Sergeant Bibot was a favorite of the crowd. He had a macabresense of theatre, which he applied with great panache tohis duties at the city gate. Keenly observant and well familiarwith the faces of many aristocrats, Bibot was proud of the factthat he had personally sent over fifty Royalists to the guillotine.He basked in the attention of the onlookers, playing tohis audience as he conducted his inspections prior to passingTime Wars #3people through the gate. He was a showman with a sadisticsense of humor. If he spotted a disguised aristo, he would drawthe process out, teasing his victim, allowing him to think thathe would be passed through before dashing all his hopes in aflamboyant unmasking. The crowd loved every bit of it Sometimes,if he was in an especially playful mood, Sergeant Bibotwould actually pass an aristo through the gate, giving him ashort head start before sending some of his men to catch himand bring him back, dragged kicking and screaming throughthe city gate and to his doom. On such occasions, the crowdwould always cheer him and he could climb up on hisever-present empty cask of wine, remove his hat, and take abow.Each night, after the gates were closed, Sergeant Bibot wouldremain to smoke his clay pipe and drink the wine that his admirersbrought him as he regaled them with anecdotes concerninghis illustrious career. He was particularly fond of tellingthem the story of the day that Citizen Danton had personallycome to watch him discharge his duties. He had unmaskedsix ci-devant aristocrats that day and the Minister of Justicehad personally commended him for the zeal with which heserved the people.Corderro found himself propelled along by the crowd untilhe was standing by the West Barricade, where a sizable thronghad already gathered to watch Sergeant Bibot put on his show.A large and heavy man with a florid face and bristling moustaches,Bibot was squeezed into his ill-fitting uniform like tenpounds of flour packed into a five-pound sack. A long line ofcarts and pedestrians was already cued up, held back by Bibot’smen until such time as the audience was built up to a suitablesize. There was a great feeling of camaraderie and anticipationin the air as Sergeant Bibot strutted to his post taking timeto pause so that he could exchange pleasantries with some ofhis regular observers, be slapped upon the back and, he hoped,
The Pimpernel Plotadmired by the young women m the crowd, whom he greetedwith exaggerated winks and blown kisses. Corderro thoughtthat he was going to be sick. He felt all wound up inside andhis skin was clammy. He looked down at his hands and sawthat they were shaking.Sergeant Bibot began to have the people brought up, one ata time, so that he could examine them and pass them through.The people in the crowd called out encouragement and suggestions.“There, that one! That beard looks false! Give it a good, hardyank, Sergeant Bibot!”“Why don’t you come here and yank it, you miserable son ofa Royalist bootlicker!” shouted the owner of the beard, a burlyfarmer.“I’ll do more than yank your phony beard, you bastard!”yelled the first man as he ran forward and tried to climb up onthe cart, only to be pulled away at the last minute by Bibot’ssoldiers.“Peace, Citizen!” cried Sergeant Bibot, melodramaticallyholding up his hand. “All will be settled momentarily!” Turningto the farmer, Sergeant Bibot smiled pleasantly, wishedhim a good day and asked him to excuse the zeal of the goodcitizen who was only anxious that ci-devant aristocrats bebrought to justice. “Purely as a matter of form,” said SergeantBibot, “would you consent to showing me your hands?”The farmer grunted and held out his hands, turning themfrom palms down to palms up.“Merci,” said Sergeant Bibot. “These are the roughened, callousedhands of a working man,” he said to the crowd. “Noaristo would have hands such as these. And the beard appearsto be quite genuine,” he added for good measure. “A fine, luxuriantgrowth it is, to boot!”He clapped the grinning farmer on the back and passed himthrough as the crowd applauded. The process continued asTime Wars #3Bibot intently examined everyone who sought egress throughthe gate, making a show of it and striving to entertain those heexamined as well as the people in the crowd.A large and-heavy wagon filled with wine casks came upnext and Bibot made a great show of opening each cask andchecking to see if anyone was concealed inside. His examinationrevealed no concealed aristocrats and Bibot passed thewagon through. Several others he allowed to pass with onlythe most cursory inspection, as the drivers were known to himhaving regularly passed through his gate twice a day on theirway to and from the city. An undercurrent of hostility sweptthrough the crowd as an elegant coach drew up and stoppedat Sergeant Bibot’s post.Surely, no aristocrat would be so great a fool as to attemptleaving Paris so conspicuously. Several of the people in thecrowd, close enough to see inside the coach, recognized oneof its occupants and word soon spread throughout the mobthat this was no person worthy of derision, but the very beautifuland famous Marguerite St. Just, that celebrated actress ofthe Comedie Francaise, whose brother, Armand St. Just, was aleading figure of the Revolution and a member of the Committeeof Public Safety.Citoyenne St. Just had recently caused a bit of a scandal whenshe married that wealthy English baronet, Sir Percy Blakeney,
thus becoming Lady Blakeney, but no one could accuse her ofbeing an aristocrat, much less a Royalist. The popular actresswas well known as an ardent Republican and a believer inequality of birth. “Inequality of fortune,” she was fond of saying,“is merely an untoward accident. The only inequality Irecognize and will admit to is inequality of talent.” As a resultof this belief, her charming salon in the Rue Richelieu hadbeen reserved for originality and intellect, for wit and brilliance.She had entertained members of the theatrical profession,well-known writers and famous philosophes, and the ocThe Pimpernel Plotcasional foreign dignitary, which was how she had met SirPercy Blakeney.It came as quite a shock to those within her circle when shemarried Blakeney. They all thought that he was quite beneathher, intellectually speaking. A prominent figure in fashionableEuropean society, he was the son of the late Sir AlgernonBlakeney, whose wife had succumbed to imbecility. The elderBlakeney took his stricken wife abroad and there his son wasraised and educated. When Algernon Blakeney died, shortlyfollowing the death of his wife, Percy inherited a considerablefortune, which allowed him to travel abroad extensively beforereturning to his native England. He had cultivated histastes for fashion and the finer, more expensive things in life.A pleasant fellow with a sophomoric sense of humor, Blakeneywas a fashion plate and a bon vivant, but he made no pretenseto being an intellectual. It would have been ludicrous, sincehe was hopelessly dull and generally thought to be a fool. Hewas totally enraptured with his wife and seemed perfectly contentwith remaining in the background and basking in her glow.Marguerite’s friends were all at a loss to understand why shehad married him, unless his slavish devotion pleased her.However, though Marguerite St. Just might have been foundwanting in her abilities to select a fitting husband, she couldnot be faulted for her politics. While the sight of Blakeney atthe window of the coach provoked some unfavorable commentsand some jeers, the appearance of his wife beside himwas greeted with a scattering of applause.“I say there,” Blakeney said in perfect, if accented, French,“what seems to be the difficulty, Sergeant? Why this tediousdelay?”Bibot appraised him with obvious distaste. The man was bothrich and English, which were two counts against him fromthe start, but when he saw the well-known actress, his mannerchanged and he removed his hat and gave a little bow.Time Wars #3“Your pardon, Citoyenne,” said Bibot, totally ignoringBlakeney, “but everyone must be passed through one at a time,so that I may prevent the escape of any aristocratic enemies ofthe Republic.”“Aristocratic enemies?” said Blakeney. “Good Lord! Does thismean that we are to be detained?”Bibot glanced at Blakeney the way a fastidious cook mightlook upon a cockroach discovered in her kitchen. “Your wife,monsieur, is a well-known friend of the Republic and you,though an aristocrat, are obviously English, which assures yoursafety, at least for the time being.”“Oh, well, thank the Lord for that,” said Blakeney, fluttering
a lace handkerchief before his nose. “Then we shall be allowedto pass?”“ I see no reason why you should not be—”At that moment, a captain came galloping up to SergeantBibot, scattering all those in his way. His slightly skittish horsecaused Bibot to back off some steps to stand before theBlakeneys’ coach.“Has a cart gone through?” the captain demanded.“I have passed through several carts,” Bibot began.“A cart … a wagon … Loaded with wine casks….”Bibot frowned. “Yes, there was one, driven by an old winemerchant and his son. But I examined each and every caskand—”“You fool!” cried the captain. “You checked the empty winecasks, but did you examine the wagon itself?”“Why, no…” said Bibot, nervously.“Idiot! That wagon concealed the Duc de Chalis and his children!They’ve managed to escape, thanks to you!”I say there, Sergeant,” Sir Percy said, stepping down fromthe coach, “are we to be allowed to pass or—”“How long ago did they go through?” the captain said“Why, only a short while—” said Bibot.The Pimpernel Plot“Then there may yet be time to stop them! If they escape,Sergeant, you shall pay for this with your head! You had bestpray that I can catch them!”No, thought Corderro, not children! They can’t guillotineinnocent children! Forgetting his strict orders not to interfere,Corderro leaped out in front of the horse just as the captainset spurs to the animal’s flanks. Eyes rolling, the horse rearedand threw the captain, who knocked Blakeney to the groundas he fell. Corderro smashed a hard right into Sergeant Bibot’sface and at the same time wrenched the sergeant’s pistol fromhis waistband. He spun around, but the fallen captain hadmanaged to get his own pistol out. Still, Corderro was quickerand he fired first, sending a ball into the captain’s chest. Thecaptain fired as well, but instead of shooting Corderro, the ballwent through the coach and struck Lady Blakeney.The shots frightened the horses and they bolted. Corderroleaped up on the sideboard of the coach and the runawayhorses hurtled through the city gate. Bibot’s men raised theirmuskets and fired at the coach, hitting Corderro several times.He managed to get the door of the coach open and threw himselfinside, where he collapsed onto the floor of the coach andlost consciousness.The crowd at the gate had panicked at the shots and theyscattered, fleeing in all directions. The army captain lay deadin the middle of the street with a bullet through his heart.Clutching at his chest and coughing, Blakeney stumbled weaklythrough the gate in a vain attempt to follow his coach. Hemanaged about one hundred yards before he sank down tohis knees at the side of the road, retching blood. The hooves ofthe captain’s rearing horse had crushed his chest and withevery step, his splintered ribs hastened the inevitable. Blakeneyspoke his wife’s name and collapsed into a ditch. His eyesglazed over. The Scarlet Pimpernel was dead.Time Wars #3
The Pimpernel Plot1Biologically, Andre Cross was in her mid-twenties. If her agewere to be reckoned chronologically, however, she would bewell over fourteen hundred years old. She would grow olderstill, now that she had been given antiagathic drug treatments.Given all of this, it was difficult for her to accept the fact thatby the standards of the 27th century, she was still little morethan an adolescent.If asked, she gave her biological age, which was twenty-six.To do otherwise meant getting into complicated explanations.It would mean revealing that she had been born in the 12thcentury to a couple of Basque farmers who had died when shewas still a child. It would have meant explaining that she andher little brother, Marcel, had gone out alone into the world tobecome itinerant thieves, surviving as best they could, whichmeant that they were almost always starving. She would havehad to explain that she had learned to pass as a young boybecause, as vulnerable as young boys on their own could beyoung girls were even more so. If all that did not already straincredulity, there was the matter of their having been befriendedby an aging, addle-brained knight errant who had taken themboth on as squires so that he would not be alone and so thatthey could care for him. In return, he had trained them in thearts of knighthood (for he had never suspected that Andre wasa female). While Marcel was a bit too delicate of frame anddisposition to be very good in the skills of chivalry, Andre hadexcelled at them. She was possessed of an indefatigable driveand under the doting guidance of the senile knight, she hadtransformed her young and coltish body into awell-coordinated, broad-shouldered, muscular physique. Naturehad not endowed her with a voluptuous figure. She wasslim-hipped and small-breasted. A life of hardship and physiTime Wars #3cal toil had given her the sort of shape that was not traditionallyassociated with feminine beauty. She was wiry and unnaturallystrong, which had made it easier for her to carry onher male masquerade into an age when most awkward girlsbegan to develop into graceful women. When the old knightdied, she took his armor and, swathing her small breasts incloth, she assumed the role of a young “free companion,” amercenary knight. She took the invented name of Andre de laCroix and eventually found service with Prince John of Anjouat a time when he plotted to seize his brother Richard’s throne.She found herself involved with time travelers from the farfuture, although she had not known it then, nor would shehave understood it if she had. She knew nothing of time traveland she was ignorant of the Time Wars, a highly dangerousmethod of settling conflicts in the future by sending soldiersback through time to do battle within the confines of armedstruggles of the past. Her first knowledge of such things camefrom a deserter from the Temporal Corps named Hunter, aman with a stolen chronoplate who helped her to avenge herbrother’s murder and then took her ahead through time to theParis of the 17th century. There, ironically, she once againbecame involved with the machinations of people from the27th century, this time taking a more active part in their activitieson what they called “the Minus Side.” If not for her,two soldiers named Lucas Priest and Finn Delaney might have
died. They repaid her by granting her request and taking herwith them to the time from which they came.Even explaining that much to people would have meantomitting many details and inviting further questions, so AndreCross (for that was her name now and, indeed, she could nolonger recall the name she had been born with) did not botherwith any explanations. A small handful of people knew hertrue history. As far as everyone else was concerned, she wasjust an ordinary young woman of the 27th century who hadThe Pimpernel Plotenlisted in the Temporal Corps and been assigned to Lt. Col.Forrester’s elite First Division, better known as the Time Commandos.When she had first arrived at Pendleton Base, at the TemporalDeparture Station, she had been completely overwhelmedwith future shock. She had understood literally nothing of whatshe had seen and had been badly frightened, in spite of warningsfrom Priest and Delaney to expect a world of seeminglyinexplicable miracles. Now that she was returning to TemporalArmy Command Headquarters, she still possessed an unbridledfascination with the new world in which she foundherself, but it was no longer an awesome mystery to her.Since her arrival in the 27th century, she had been in thehands of specialists, being prepared for her new life at theTemporal Army Medical Complex in Colorado Springs. Firstly,and most importantly, it had been necessary to determinewhether or not her temporal transplantation would have anadverse effect upon the course of history. The first part of thisquestion had been settled when it was discovered that, due toan injury sustained in combat at some time in her past, shewould be unable to bear children. The second part took a littlelonger, but exhaustive research and the correlation of findingsmade by members of the Observer Corps on the MinusSide satisfied the investigators that Andre’s removal from hernatural time would not constitute a threat to temporal continuity.That opened her way to a new life as a soldier in theTemporal Corps. However, it had been only the first step.It had been necessary for her to receive immunization treatments,followed by the carefully administered program ofantiagathic drug therapy that would extend her lifespan farbeyond what she had believed to be possible. That was followedby a long series of tests designed to establish a psychologicalprofile for her, after which she underwent surgery toreceive the cybernetic implants that would enable her to funcTime Wars #3tion as a temporal soldier and allow her to be implant-educatedto compensate for the knowledge she lacked as a result of herprimitive origins. They had viewed her as a blank slate andthe programming had progressed in slow and carefully controlledstages, during which she was assiduously monitoredto make certain that at no point was there any danger of sensoryor cerebral overload.After the long process had been completed, she had emergedas a full-fledged citizen of the 27th century, computer-pro-grammed to take her place in the modern world and trainedto assume her new role as a private in the First Division. Shehad the lowest rank of any soldier in that vaunted cadre, butshe had already participated in one of the most important missionsin the history of the unit. While she had still been back
in 17th-century Paris, she had worked with Finn Delaney andLucas Priest, as well as agents of the TIA, to help foil a terroristplot against the Referee Corps. As a result of her performance,Forrester had personally invited her to join his unitand to be trained to work alongside Priest and Delaney.As she rode the lift tube up to First Division Headquarters inthe Temporal Army Corps HQ building at Pendleton Base, shewas looking forward to seeing Priest and Delaney once again.When she had completed her training and preparations at theColorado Springs facility, she had contacted the First Divisionadministrative offices, requesting that Priest and Delaney getin touch with her as soon as they were able. Shortly thereafter,as soon as they had clocked in from an assignment, shereceived a message from them.“Private Cross is herewith ordered to report to the First Divisionlounge, TAC-HQ building, on 1 January 2614 at 2100hours. Congratulations are in order. Major Lucas Pnest andStaff Sergeant Finn Delaney, First Division, TAC.”She smiled when she saw them waiting for her at a table bythe huge window that comprised the outer wall of the FirstThe Pimpernel PlotDivision lounge. It was at the very same table that she sat withthem when she first met Colonel Forrester and had her firsttaste of a drink called Scotch. It had helped to numb her sensessomewhat as she gazed out that window and saw the shuttlesfloating by like great steel birds while, far below, soldiersmassed down in the atrium, looking like insects from the greatheight at which she gazed at them.Priest and Delaney saw her coming and they rose to theirfeet to greet her. Andre saw that there was a sort of centerpieceupon the table consisting of a medieval broadswordcrossed with a 17th-century rapier. Above the juncture of thetwo swords, in a little velvet-lined box, was a golden divisioninsignia, a stylized number one bisecting a horizontal figureeight, the symbol of infinity.She marched up to the table, snapped to attention, and gavethem both a sharp salute. Lucas grinned, picked up the insignia,and pinned it to the collar of her green transit fatigues.Both men then stood to attention, returned her salute, and theneach of them gave her a most unmilitary kiss.Though the kisses were affectionate in nature, rather thanpassionate, she was nevertheless taken by surprise.“What’s wrong?” said Lucas, seeing her expression.“Nothing,” she said, smiling, “except that’s the first time eitherof you have ever kissed me. In fact, that was the first timeI’ve been kissed since I was just a child.”“Well, don’t let it go to your head,” said Finn, “both of us cando much better. How are you, Andre?”“Well, thank you, though I still have a great deal to get usedto. It hasn’t yet ceased to feel strange to come across thingsthat I have absolutely no experience of and suddenly discoverthat I know all about them.”“It probably never will cease to feel strange,” said Lucas.“It’s something all of us experience at one time or another.Believe it or not, you’ll grow accustomed to it. It’s what solTime Wars #3diers call ‘subknowledge.’ You’ll learn to live with it. In fact,you wouldn’t survive for very long without it. None of us
would.”“You’ve come through with flying colors,” Finn said. “I spoketo that officer who was in charge of your case—”“Colonel Hendersen,” she said.“Yes, that’s the one. He said he was damned sorry to have tolet you go. You’re the most radical case of temporal relocationin the history of the corps. He said that we’ve had people relocatedfurther back in time before, on the Minus Side, but evidentlyno one’s ever been displaced and permanently assignedto Plus Time. He was bending over backwards trying to getyou reassigned to his unit.”“He wasn’t the only one,” said Andre. “The recruiters wantedto get their hands on me, as well. Evidently, as an example ofthe type of woman that soldiers could expect to meet on theMinus side, I’d be a good inducement for enlistment.” Shelaughed. “Never mind that it would be misleading, I found thewhole thing extremely funny. Women are certainly treated farbetter in this time than in the one I came from, but I supposethat some things will never change. The recruiting officer practicallyturned himself inside out trying to get me to sign somepapers and he was quite upset when I told him that anything Idid would have to be cleared through Col. Forrester first. Bythe way, where is the old man? I was hoping he’d be here.”Lucas grinned. “Just make sure you never call him ‘the oldman’ to his face! He wanted to be here, but he couldn’t makeit. Something came up and he was called upstairs, which meansthat either Delaney’s up on charges again or there’s a goodchance we’re going out soon.”“Does that mean that I will be included?” Andre said.Finn flicked her collar up with a finger, the side with thedivision insignia on it. “That makes it official,” he said. “Meanwhile,there’s still a part of your education that’s been sadlyThe Pimpernel Plotneglected.”Andre frowned. “But I was assured that my programmingwas quite complete,” she said.“All except for one thing,” said Finn, “and that’s somethingimplant education can’t take care of. Now that you’re a soldier,you’re going to have to learn to drink like one.”“Are you implying that I’m deficient in that department?”she said with a smile.“Well, let’s say that you have yet to prove that you are not,”said Finn, chuckling.“That sounds like a challenge.”Finn grinned. “Name your poison,” he said.Andre looked at him with amusement. She knew thatDelaney was a prodigious drinker, but she also recalled thatthere was one drink in particular, preferred by Col. Forrester,that Delaney truly loathed. She hadn’t tried it, but she recalledDelaney saying that it took a deathwish and a cast-iron stomachto be able to stand it.“Red Eye,” she said.Delaney looked aghast. “Oh, no!”Lucas burst out laughing. “Ten chits says she drinks youunder the table,” he said.“Okay, you’re on,” Delaney said. “Only let’s make it moreinteresting. If you want to collect, you’re going to have to matchus drink for drink.”“I think that I can make it still more interesting,” said Andre.
“It’s been years since I’ve had a man and the last one left agreat deal to be desired. We’ll all go drink for drink and if oneof you wins, I’ll take him to bed.”The two men raised their eyebrows and exchanged glances.“But suppose you win?” said Lucas. “Unlikely a possibilitythough that may be,” he added.Andre smiled. “Then the two of you will pool your resourcesand purchase me the services of a Class 1 male courtesan.”Time Wars #3“A Class 1…. Where in hell did you learn about that?” Delaneysaid. “They’re putting that kind of stuff in the programming?”“My therapist at Colorado Springs seemed to think that I’dbeen sexually deprived,” said Andre. “She suggested that as asolution. The idea of a male whore intrigued me greatly and Itold her that I would consider it. She said to ask for a Class 1,since they possessed the greatest level of skills.”“Do you have any idea how much something like that wouldcost?” said Finn. “It takes years to achieve a Class l rating.”“Well, you did say that you wanted to make the wager interesting,”she said.“Of course, you realize that by bringing a Class 1 licensedcourtesan into the wager, you’re placing a not inconsiderablevalue on yourself?” said Lucas, with a hint of amusement.She replied with a straight face. “I always have,” she said.Lucas chuckled. “Very well, I’m game. What about you Finn?”“I’m still trying to decide if I can afford it,” said Delaney. “Amajor makes a great deal more than a noncom.”“So who asked you to get busted so many goddamn times?”said Lucas. “I’ll tell you what: if Andre wins I’ll advance youwhatever you’re short, at the usual rate of interest. How aboutit?”“This could get very expensive,” said Delaney.“Of course, if you think you’ll lose . . .” said Andre“All right, I accept,” said Finn. “But on one condition. I namethe time and place. When I collect, I want both of us to be coldsober.”Finn and Lucas staggered into the briefing room, both ofthem terribly hung over. Delaney’s eyes looked like a map ofthe city’s transit system. Priest was afraid that he had destroyedhis stomach lining. They found Andre already in the briefingroom, drinking black coffee and looking remarkably invigoratedand refreshed. She glanced up at them and smiledThe Pimpernel Plotsweetly.“Well?” she said. “Have I learned to drink like a soldier ordo I still require practice?”“That’s the last time I ever make a bet with you,” said Finnslowly-lowering himself into a chair and signaling the orderlyfor a cup of coffee. Lucas sank into a chair on her other side.“I still can’t believe she was sober enough to collect lastnight,” he said. He looked at Andre and shook his head, sadly.“Considering how much it must have cost, I hope you were atleast clearheaded enough to remember the experience!”“Oh, it was quite memorable,” she said, lightly. “It was fortunatefor me that there was a female officer in the lounge lastnight who could assist me in making the selection. I explainedour wager to her and she was delighted to help out. She examinedyour credit discs and programmed the credit transfer, then
guided me in making a wise choice. I must say, I found it allabsolutely fascinating. However, I had no idea that these courtesanswere paid by the hour. It must be an extremely lucrativeprofession.”Finn shut his eyes. “How long did you keep him?”“Oh, all night, of course.”Delaney put his head into his hands and moaned.“Ten-tion!” called out the orderly as Col. Forrester enteredthe briefing room. Andre leapt to her feet and snapped to asmart attention. Lucas took considerably longer to rise andDelaney didn’t even bother, remaining slumped over in hischair with his head in his hands.The massively built Forrester removed his cap from his baldhead and looked them over, his craggy, wrinkled features contortinginto a grimace of wry distaste.“As you were,” he said, dryly. Andre and Lucas sat back down.“Corporal Fleming,” said Forrester.“Yes, sir, I know,” said the orderly. He already had thehypogun prepared. Delaney winced as the corporal pressedTime Wars #3the gun against his neck and injected the adrenergen soldiershad nicknamed “nitro” directly into his carotid artery.“Christ!” Finn shouted as the “nitro” hammered into hisbrain. He jerked violently in his chair. His eyes rolled and heshivered as if with St. Vitus’s Dance.The orderly approached Lucas with the hypogun, butForrester stopped him, saying, “That’s all right, CorporalFleming. As long as he can stand up on his own, he’s soberenough for me. Just bring the major some more coffee.”“Yes, sir.” The corporal looked disappointed.“Delaney?” Forrester said.“Sir!”“I swear, I think you’re starting to like that stuff. Do youthink we can proceed now?”“Fuck, yes!”“A simple ‘yes, sir’ would have been sufficient.”“Yes, sir!”“Sit down and shut up, Delaney. And try not to shake like amonkey on a stick. It’s most distracting.”Delaney sat back down, holding the arms of his chair with adeath grip. He tried to control the flow of energy, but he stillcontinued to vibrate like an epileptic.Forrester glanced at Andre and smiled. “Glad you’ve joinedus, Private Cross. Congratulations.”“Thank you, sir.”“Think you’re ready for a mission?”“Yes, sir.”“Good, I’m glad to hear it. This one should provide a decentshakedown for you. I shouldn’t think you’d have much trouble,after the Timekeeper affair. This one should be quite simplecompared to that.”“I’ll do my very best, sir.”Fob nodded. “Priest, you all right?”“Just a bit hung over, sir.”The Pimpernel Plot“That must have been some celebration last night,” saidForrester. “I’m sorry I missed it.”“We’ll give you a rain check on another one as soon as we
get back, sir,” Lucas said. “I’d sort of like to see you and PrivateCross hoist a few together. She drinks Red Eye as if itwere iced tea.”“Really? Well, it’s nice to know that there’s at least one personin this unit who can hold her liquor. How much did youlose?”“I’d rather not say, sir.”“That bad?” Forrester chuckled. “You and I will have to sitdown to some serious elbow-bending, Cross. I don’t think thatthese two amateurs are in our class ““Anytime, sir,” said Andre. “It will be my pleasure.”“Good, it’s a date. Now let’s get down to business, shall we?”Forrester went up to the podium console and leaned againstit. “You people will be happy to know that you’ll be fairly autonomouson this mission,” he said, “meaning that you won’thave the Temporal Intelligence Agency to contend with.”“Goddamn spooks,” Delaney said, his shaking beginning tosubside a little.“Keep your opinions to yourself, Delaney,” Forrester said.“In any case, you might be interested to know that after thatlast mission, the Referee Corps has seen fit to grant the armyeminent domain regarding temporal adjustment missions,which means that the TIA is back to its intelligence-gatheringrole under the aegis of the Observer Corps. That didn’t sit verywell with Darrow, so he resigned and there’s a new agencydirector now, brought in from the Observer Corps. I hope thiswill end the rivalry between our two branches of the service. Ialso checked on agent Mongoose, in case you should be curioushow things turned out with him He was critical for while,but he’s recovered nicely and his features have been reconstructed.He’s also been demoted from field operations direcTime Wars #3tor to intelligence evaluation and it’s my guess that it will be along time before he’s trusted with another field assignment.Considering how badly he botched that mission, it’s nothingbut a slap on the wrist, if you ask me, but that’s none of myconcern. By the way, Delaney, I am given to understand thatthe two of you had some differences of opinion that you hadintended to resolve privately, between yourselves. Needless tosay, I don’t want to hear about any breach of regulations, but Iwould not be displeased to learn that agent Mongoose had beentemporarily removed from the TIA active-duty roster for thepurposes of further medical attention. In this regard, I trustthat any ‘discussions’ between the two of you will be handledwith discretion.”“I’ll see to it, sir,” Delaney said. He was only twitching now.“You can see to it on your own time,” said Forrester. “Rightnow, there’s more pressing business requiring our attention.We have an adjustment on our hands and you’ll be clockingout immediately following this briefing.” He pressed a buttonon the console, activating the computer. “Forrester, code 321-G,clearance blue,” he said.“Clearance confirmed,” said the computer. “How may I assistyou, Colonel?”“Request general background information on the FrenchRevolution, circa 1789 to 1799,” said Forrester.“Working,” said the computer. “Do you require visuals?”“I’ll specify visuals if need be,” Forrester said. “Proceed whenready.”
“French Revolution, immediate causes,” said the computer.“Rapid growth of French industry and commerce in the late1700s leading to growth of the middle class; inequitable taxa-tion—many cases exempting aristocrats and members of theclergy; weakening of the old regime by the Treaty of Paris in1763, which gave French possessions in India and NorthAmerica to the British; consequent loss of revenues to the govThe Pimpernel Ploternment; further depletion of the treasury due to expendituresincurred in giving aid to the Americans in their revolt againstthe British; bankruptcy of the king’s treasury in 1787; refusalof King Louis XVI to institute needed social reforms growth ofthe philosophe movement leading to—”“That’s enough,” said Forrester. “Proceed.”“May 5, 1789,” said the computer. “King Louis XVI summoneda meeting of the Estates-General at Versailles in orderto raise money for the treasury. Representation consisted of300 aristocrats; 300 clergy; and 600 commons, tiers etat, or thirdestate. Immediate debate concerning voting powers led to themembers of the third estate assuming the title of the NationalAssembly, June 17, 1789. June 20, meetings were suspendedand members of the Assembly took the Tennis Court Oath, sonamed after their place of informal meeting, resolving to drafta constitution. The Assembly was joined by members of theclergy and aristocratic classes. The Comte de Mirabeau roseto prominence as principal orator of the third estate. Dismissalof chief minister Jacques Necker by Louis XVI on July 11 andthreatened dismissal of the Assembly precipitated the stormingof the Bastille by a mob on July 14, the murder of GovernorLaunay, and the freeing of political prisoners. Neckar wasrecalled, the Marquis de Lafayette was appointed commanderof new National Guard, adoption of the tricolor and the beginningof emigration by members of the aristocratic class followed.Mass uprisings took place throughout France. On August4, 1789, aristocratic representatives surrendered all feudalrights and privileges, titles were abolished, sales of officesprohibited, guilds were dissolved. August 27, 1789, the Assemblyaccepted the Declaration of the Rights of Man, drawn fromEnglish and American precedents and theories of thephilosophes. October 5, 1789, an outbreak of mob violence inParis culminated in a mob consisting primarily of women invadingthe royal palace at Versailles. The royal family was resTime Wars #3cued by the Marquis de Lafayette. The National Assemblyadopted a constitution creating a monarchy answerable to aone-house Legislature. The property of the church and ofemigrated nobles was seized by the government to providepublic funds. The state assumed the support of the clergy. July1790 saw the abolition of old provinces and governments;France was divided into 83 departments, subdivided into 374districts and cantons, each with a local assembly. Voting oractive citizens paid taxes equivalent to three days’ labor wages;nonvoting or passive citizens paid no taxes or a sum less thanthe three days’ minimum. The old judicial constitution wasabolished. Civil organization of the clergy, with priests andbishops chosen by popular vote, accompanied the growth ofthe political power of the Jacobin Club under the leadershipof Robespierre, and of the Cordeliers under the leadership of
Georges Jacques Danton and Jean Paul Marat. King Louis XVIattempted to flee France with his family on June 20, 1791, wascaptured at Varennes, and was brought back to Paris. Dissolutionof the National Assembly by vote of the membership occurredon September 30, 1791 and election of the LegislativeAssembly took place on October 1, 1791, with 745 memberselected by active citizens and divided into a Right faction, consistingof constitutionalists and Royalists, and a Left faction,consisting of Girondists, Jacobins and Cordeliers. August 27,1791, the Declaration of Pillnitz by Frederick William 11 ofPrussia and Leopold 11 of Austria resulted in the alliance ofAustria and Prussia against France in February of 1792 andthe War of the First Coalition.”“Stop,” said Forrester. “All right, those are the highlights,you’ll get the rest during mission programming. The key pointhere concerns the fact that the Referee Corps had assigned anarbitration action to take place during the War of the FirstCoalition. There was a call for voluntary enlistment in Franceand soldiers of the Temporal Corps were clocked back to variThe Pimpernel Plotous locales in key municipalities to be infiltrated as volunteersfor the French Army of the Republic. Continue, computer.”“August 10, 1792,” said the computer, “rioting mobs brokeinto the Tuileries, killed the Swiss Guards, and forced the kingto turn to the Legislative Assembly for protection. The Assemblyimprisoned the king and took away all of his remainingpowers. There were mass arrests under the provisional governmentheaded by Georges Jacques Danton. September 2 toSeptember 7, 1792, the September Massacres—”“Stop,” said Forrester. “Now by this time, there was totalpanic among the aristocrats remaining in France. Computer,general overview concerning aristocratic emigration circa1792.”“Emigration of ci-devant aristocrats was forcibly preventedby the provisional government,” said the computer. “The Committeeof Public Safety, under the leadership of public prosecutorFouquier-Tinville, appointed to preside over France’sinternal security, was charged with power to arrest and executeenemies of the Republic. Mass attempts by members ofthe aristocracy to escape France, some aided by foreign nationals—”“Stop, “ said Forrester. “General background on the ScarletPimpernel.”“Working,” said the computer. “The scarlet pimpernel: acommon pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), having scarlet, whiteor purplish flowers that close at the approach of rainy or cloudyweather—also called poor man’s weatherglass, red pimpernel.In conjunction with the French Revolution, the insignia andalias of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a group of Britishadventurers involved in the smuggling of French aristocratsto England, specifically, the alias of the leader of the group,Sir Percy Blakeney—”“Visual, please,” said Forrester.Time Wars #3A second later, a holographic image of Sir Percy Blakeneyappeared before the podium. The projection was that of a tall,broad-shouldered, athletic-looking man with fair hair, blueeyes, and a strong jaw. He looked handsome, but he had alook of vague boredom on his face, giving it a slightly sleepy,
insipid air. He was dressed in a short-waisted satin coat, awaistcoat with wide lapels, tight-fitting breeches, and highlypolished Newmarket boots. His sleeves and collar weretrimmed with fine Mechline lace and he stood in an affectedposture, one leg slightly before the other, one hand on his hip,the other bent before him and holding a lace handkerchief ina loose, languid fashion.“There’s a pretty flower,” said Delaney.“There’s your assignment, Delaney,” Forrester said. “In severalhours, that’s what you’re going to look like.”“Why me?” Delaney said, chagrined.“Because Priest’s too short and you’re about the right build,”said Forrester.“Hell,” said Delaney. “All right, let’s have the rest of it.”“The adjustment stems from the temporal interference ofone soldier, named Alex Corderro, assigned to the War of theFirst Coalition arbitration action,” Forrester said. “It was hisfirst hitch in the field and subsequent investigation shows thathe never should have been accepted in the service in the firstplace. Too unstable, a high potential of cracking under stress.Unfortunately, the corps is so badly in need of cannon-fodderthat we’ll take just about anyone these days. As a result of thatsterling policy, we’ve got an adjustment on our hands.“Corderro violated the noninterference directives,” saidForrester. “He attempted to prevent the capture of some escapingaristocrats and, in so doing, he shot a captain in theArmy of the Republic. Blakeney and his wife were on the sceneand what seems to have occurred, as best as the Observerscan reconstruct it, is that Lady Blakeney was wounded in theThe Pimpernel Plotexchange of gunfire and Blakeney was trampled by a horse.Corderro escaped through the West Barricade in the Blakeneys’coach, but he was shot several times. Evidently, he lost consciousnessand bled to death. The Observers found the coachin a wooded area several miles outside of Paris. The horseshad run themselves out and had wandered off the road, somehowmanaging to wedge the coach between two trees. Insidethe coach, they found Corderro, dead. Lady MargueriteBlakeney was alive, but badly wounded and unconscious.”“What about Sir Percy?” said Delaney.“He was left behind in Paris,” Forrester said.“And where is he now?”“Well, the Observers managed to remove his body—”“His body! You mean he’s dead?”“Chest completely crushed by a horse’s hooves,” saidForrester.Delaney swallowed heavily. “Wait, now, let me get thisstraight, sir. You’re telling me that my assignment is to be aplant? A temporal relocation?”“That’s right.”“For how long?”“Well, that remains to be seen,” said Forrester. “We have tomake certain that the aristocrats who were smuggled out ofFrance by Blakeney and his group don’t wind up on the guillotine.He was also instrumental in the fall from power of a certainFrench official named Chauvelin an agent of the Committeeof Public Safety. Since Blakeney’s operations were of acovert nature, we don’t have a great deal of information onhim and his group.
“We have since obtained further data, courtesy of our friendsat the TIA. At any rate, even though it may not all be cut anddried, at least you won’t have anyone from our time workingagainst you, as you did in several of your previous assignments.”Time Wars #3“Still,” said Delaney, “what you’re telling me is that I maywind up taking Blakeney’s place indefinitely.”“That’s essentially correct,” said Forrester “at least until theTIA can determine exactly what his activities were in the yearsfollowing his involvement in the Revolution. However it shouldnot be all unpleasant,” he added. “Computer, visual on LadyMarguerite Blakeney.”The holographic projection of Sir Percy Blakeney disappeared,to be replaced by one of his wife, the former MargueriteSt. Just. Delaney gulped and Priest gave a low whistle.Forrester smiled. “I shouldn’t think that life with LadyBlakeney would be very hard to take,” he said. He chuckled.“Frankly, Delaney, I think you’ll have your hands full.”The Pimpernel Plot2Since Delaney would be the only one impersonating a figureof historical significance, there had been no need for theothers to submit to cosmetic surgery. Consequently, after theyhad gone through mission programming and while Finn wasbeing transformed into the image of Sir Percy Blakeney, Lucasand Andre went down to supply, drew their gear, then took thetubes down to the ground-level Departure Station.As members of a First Division adjustment team, they hadpriority status, so there was no waiting for their departure codesto be called. Instead, they were shuttled directly to the nearestgrid area, to be clocked out together to the 18th century. Asthey passed soldiers in transit dressed in period, the soldierscame to attention and saluted them. Both Lucas and Andrewere also dressed in period, but Lucas’ insignia of rank wasclearly visible on his armband and the fact that they were in ashuttle normally reserved for officers clearly labeled them forthe groups of soldiers waiting to clock out. Those who wereclose enough as the shuttle passed to see their silver dog tags,worn on the outside of their garments, and their divisionalinsignia added small, respectful nods to their salutes. Fromthe point of military etiquette, it wasn’t strictly proper to give anod of greeting while saluting, but it had become an informallyestablished practice among the members of the corps tosingle out those in the First Division in this manner. The silverdog tags stood out in marked contrast to the color codedones issued to the regular troops. Members of the ObserverCorps wore gold tags and only soldiers of the First Divisionwore silver. The tags meant that the wearer was about to clockout to the Minus Side and silver tags meant an adjustmentteam was on the way to deal with an historical discontinuity.There wasn’t a single soldier in the Temporal Corps who didTime Wars #3not know the meaning of those silver tags and the nods wereboth a greeting and an unspoken wish of good luck.Andre still marveled at the sight of all those soldiers dressedin period, waiting around the sprawling plaza beside their pilesof gear. Some smoked, some drank, others chatted, a few slept,
and the green recruits were easily identifiable by their air ofnervous tension and their restlessness. They passed a groupof Roman legionnaires in breastplates, sandals, and plumedhelmets gathered around a video game machine. They tookturns pitting their skills against the game computer and theylaughed and shouted like small children, slapping each otheron the back and calling out encouragement. A platoon ofVisigoths snapped to attention as they passed, quickly palmingseveral tiny metal sniffers which they had been passingback and forth. On past a group of Crusaders, with red crosseson their chests, among whom was an obvious green recruitwho, in his nervousness, had been swinging a short maceabout. At the sight of the shuttle, the recruit snapped to attentionand, without thinking, tried to toss off a sharp salute. Unfortunately,he had tried to salute with the hand that held themace and the resulting “bong” as he coshed himself and fellto the floor with a clatter of metal brought about hystericallaughter from his companions.The ground shuttle brought them to the gate of the departuregrid, a large, permanently installed chronoplate that differedfrom the portable personal units in that it could transportwhole platoons of soldiers at a time. The Barbary piratesstanding by to clock out next hurriedly made way for them asthey walked through the gate to report to the grid transportdetail. The OC came to attention and saluted. Lucas returnedhis salute, then removed his armband with his rank insigniaupon it, surmounted by the divisional pin, and handed it to theOC along with his silver dog tags. Andre did the same.The Officer in Charge separated the dog tags, taking oneThe Pimpernel Ploteach off the chains and then placing the single tags with thechains along with their armbands and insignia in separate plasticboxes. With a “By your leave, sir,” he then proceeded tosearch Lucas quickly and efficiently, as per regulations, to makecertain that no unauthorized effects would be clocked out alongwith him, either intentionally or unintentionally. Another memberof the detail observed the same procedure with Andre. Theman who searched Andre came up with her credit disc, to herembarrassment. She had forgotten all about it.“Sorry, sir,” she said to the sergeant. “I must have transferredit to my pocket without thinking when I changed.”“Don’t worry about it, soldier. Happens all the time.” Heplaced the computer disc into the same plastic box containingher armband and dog tag.The OC then took the two tags that he had separated fromthe neck chains, each containing their respective codes, andinserted them one at a time into a tiny slot in the grid controlbank. He waited for a moment, watching the readout screenthen nodded.“Stand by, sir,” he said to Lucas.A couple of seconds passed and the borders of the grid beganto glow softly.“Staged, “ said the OC. “Good luck, sir.”“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Lucas said. “All right, Andre let’sgo.”They walked forward into the field generated by the gridand disappeared from view.Delaney stepped out of limbo and onto soft, damp grass. Anold veteran of time travel, the chronoplates did not affect him
as profoundly as they did most soldiers, who usually vomitedupon arrival and suffered from temporary bouts of vertigo andmyoclonus, as well as double vision and ataxia. He did, however,feel slightly disoriented and off balance. He staggeredTime Wars #3momentarily, taking several uncoordinated steps and swayingin a drunken fashion until he was able to shake off theeffects and become orientated to his new surroundingsHe saw that he was in a small clearing in a forest, moreproperly, a wood, since he knew that he was not far outside ofParis and he could see the road leading to the city through aclump of trees. The Pathfinders had cut it fairly close with thecoordinates. Still, Finn had clocked in with much less room tospare before. One of the nightmares every soldier had fromtime to time involved a vision of clocking in at the same timeand location at which another person or object occupied thatspace. The Pathfinders were usually extremely efficient atavoiding such occurrences, but there were still the inevitableaccidents. The closest Finn had ever come to one was whenhe clocked into a forest clearing much like the one he nowfound himself in. The instant before he had materialized, arabbit had run across the spot. As Finn clocked in, he hadstepped forward and his foot had come down upon the runningrabbit, crushing it. It gave off a pathetic squeal, a soundstrikingly similar to a baby’s cry, and for a horrifying moment,Finn had thought it was an infant. It had been necessary forhim to kill the poor animal to put it out of its misery and eversince, he had felt jumpy at the moment of materialization.This time, however, it had gone well and as he lookedaround, he saw the Observer, disguised as a peasant, approachinghim. There was nothing to distinguish the Observer fromany other peasant of the time; but the fact that he had justseen a man materialize out of thin air and was approachinghim purposefully, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred,marked him for what he was. He was leading a chestnut mareon a rein as he approached.“Major Fitzroy,” he said.“Sergeant Delaney.”The Observer nodded. “The coach is about two hundredThe Pimpernel Plotyards down the road, off to the side,” he said. “You can’t missit. It was stuck, but we’ve taken care of that. Now pay attention,this is where it stands. We’ve removed Corderro’s body.Lady Marguerite Blakeney is all right. The pistol ball grazedher skull, but it was only a scratch and we’ve patched her up.We applied some plastiskin to her forehead and she’ll neverknow that she was hit. There’s a hole in the inside of the coachwhere the ball went after passing through the window andskipping off her skull, so if she has any memory of being shot,show her where the ball went and tell her that she must havefainted and struck her head. That will account for any painthat she might feel later when the dope wears off. The coachhorses must have bolted when the shot went off, so it’s highlyunlikely that she saw what happened to Blakeney, even if shewas still conscious at the time. Your story is that you wereknocked down by the horse, but only winded. You took thecaptain’s horse and chased after the coach as soon as you gotyour breath back.”
“What about Corderro?” said Delaney. “What do I tell herifshe asks about him?”“Chances are she won’t,” said Fitzroy. “She was probablyalready unconscious when he jumped onto the coach. If shedoes remember anything about that, you saw him leap fromthe coach and take off running into the woods as you wereriding up. That same story will serve you if there’s any pursuitfrom the city that catches up with you. If that happens, theywon’t have any reason to detain you, but you might advancethe theory that Corderro was a disguised aristocrat. That shouldspur them on to look for him and let you continue on yourway.”“Got it,” said Finn. “We’re heading for Calais?”“Right. Blakeney’s yacht will be there to take you across toDover. You’ll be picking up your support team at an inn calledThe Fisherman’s Rest in Kent. Let’s just make sure you’ve gotTime Wars #3their cover straight.”“They’re family servants who were looking after my propertyin Rouen and they’ve been sent ahead to England to makethings ready for us at the estate now that my land in France isforfeit to the government.”“Good. You’ll want to be very circumspect with LadyBlakeney,” said Fitzroy. “Several months ago, she denouncedthe Marquis de St. Cyr for seeking support from Austria to putdown the Revolution. He was arrested, tried, and guillotinedalong with his entire family.”“Nice lady,” said Finn.“Blakeney seems to have shared your sentiments,” Fitzroysaid. “He only recently found out about it and when he did heturned off to her completely. Their relationship has been alittle strained since then, to say the least. Blakeney’s been attentiveand polite to her, but evidently that’s about as far as itwent. She’s taken to sniping at him in public lately.”“So much for Lady Blakeney not being hard to take,” saidFinn.“What’s that?”“Nothing, really. Just thinking about something my CO said.”“Just be very careful around her,” said Fitzroy. “Rememberthat she’s a Republican and not to be trusted. If she finds outyou’re smuggling aristocrats out of France, there’s no tellingwhat she might do.”“Terrific,” said Finn. “Got any more good news for me?”“I’m afraid so,” said Fitzroy. “We don’t yet have a completelist of all the aristocrats Blakeney smuggled out of France. TheTlA’s still working on it, but it’s a hell of a job and they’ve gotto separate the ones Blakeney’s group got out from the oneswho got out on their own. We also have to be especially carefulthat you don’t wind up rescuing anyone who wasn’t supposedto be rescued.”“That’s a cheery thought,” said Finn. “How am I supposed toThe Pimpernel Plotfigure out whom to smuggle over?”“You’ll be contacted at the appropriate time,” Fitzroy said.“If it isn’t by me, then the codeword will be ‘wildflower.’ Thatwill identify your contact.”Finn grimaced. “That’ll work just great unless someone happensto mention wildflowers in the course of a conversation
Do me a favor. Forget the cloak-and-dagger stuff, Fitzroy. Ifsomeone should happen to come up to Percy Blakeney andaddress him as Delaney, I’ll assume that it’s my contact, allright?”“I suppose that would work,” Fitzroy said.“It’s nice to see you’re flexible,” said Finn, sarcastically.“What about chronoplate access?”“Can’t let you have one,” said Fitzroy. “Sorry. It would be toorisky. However, I’ll try to work as close to you as possible withinthe limitations of our situation. If you get in a jam or have toget in touch with me for any reason, you’ve got your panicbutton. I assume you’ve had your implants checked?”“Of course,” said Finn, impatiently. No soldier worth his saltwould clock out on a mission without making certain that hissignal implant, located subcutaneously behind his ear, was inproper working order.“Good,” said Fitzroy. “Now there’s one more thing. When hewas killed, Blakeney had just embarked upon his smugglingcareer. He’d had a bellyful of the beheadings and he had arrangedwith two of his friends, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and LordAntony Dewhurst, to smuggle the Duc de Chalis and his childrenout of France. You’re checked out on Ffoulkes andDewhurst?”Finn nodded. Since both men were known to be close friendsof Blakeney’s, all available information concerning them hadbeen included in the mission programming.“Dewhurst is with the boat,” Fitzroy said. “Ffoulkes was theone who drove that wagon. One of the duke’s sons was on theTime Wars #3box with Ffoulkes, the younger boy and the old man werecrammed into a hollow section underneath the box. Theywouldn’t be able to stay in such a cramped space for very long,so Ffoulkes probably let them out as soon as they were out ofsight of the gate.”“What about his wife?” said Finn.“She died last year. You didn’t know that? God, they did putthis together in a hurry. You’ll have to watch yourself. Nowwe’ve arranged for another wagon to act as a decoy, sinceFfoulkes won’t be able to make very good time in that rig. Thatway, if there’s pursuit, we’ll have our wagon between the soldiersand Ffoulkes. They’ll catch up to a wagonful of emptywine casks, driven by an old man and a boy, and they can rip itapart to their hearts’ content and they won’t find anything.That should buy Ffoulkes all the time he needs. However, whenhe planned their escape, Blakeney didn’t know that he’d marrieda woman who had sent an entire family of aristocrats tothe guillotine. So obviously, he can’t very well expect to takethem aboard his yacht along with Lady Blakeney, right? I’massuming that he made some sort of last-minute contingencyplan with Ffoulkes to hide them out somewhere until he andLady Blakeney had reached England. Then he probably intendedto send the yacht back for them. Unfortunately, there’sno way of knowing exactly what sort of plans he made or wherehe intended to hide them. It’s all guesswork. You’ll have toimprovise.”“I’ll work it out somehow,” said Finn. “Is that it? We’re cuttingit a little close, I think.”“That’s it,” Fitzroy said. He handed Finn a little case, smallenough to fit inside his pocket and disguised as a snuffbox.
“You’ll find a signet ring in there. It matches Blakeney’s. Slidethe bottom of the signet forward and a needle will pop up.Practice with it a few times before you put it on, so you don’tstick yourself. You’ve got several cartridges in there, allThe Pimpernel Plotcolor-coded, and there’s a key inside the lid. It’s loaded forLady Blakeney now. Stick her when you’re ready for her tocome around; it should take about three seconds. After that,load it with anything you wish, just don’t give anyone a lethaldose unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Those are the red ones,by the way. If you use one of these, it had better be as a lastresort, is that clear?”“Perfectly.”“Right. Get moving.” Fitzroy handed him the reins. “Goodluck, Delaney.”Finn swung up into the saddle and rode off at a gallop. Nosooner had he arrived at the site where Fitzroy had left thecoach with the lead horse tethered to a tree, than he heard therapidly approaching sound of hoofbeats. Moving quickly, hedismounted, dropping the reins and allowing the horse tonibble at the grass. He then loosed the lead horse and climbedinto the coach just as a party of six soldiers of the Republicrode into view. Finn took a deep breath. They had cut it veryclose, indeed.He opened the box, removed the ring, quickly checked theneedle, then slipped it onto the ring finger of his right hand.He bent over Lady Blakeney and pricked her with the needlejust as the officer leading the soldiers opened the door of thecoach.“You! Come out of there!”Finn looked over his shoulder and saw the lieutenant pointinga pistol at him.“My wife, “ he said, anxiously. “She’s—”“Never mind your wife, step out of the coach!”Lady Blakeney moaned and started stirring.“Thank God,” said Finn. “For a moment, I was afraid that—”“Step out of the coach, I said!”Marguerite opened her eyes and gave a start. “Percy! Lord,Percy, I’ve been shot!”Time Wars #3“No, my dear,” said Finn, stepping out of the coach slowly.“You only fainted.”The soldier grabbed his arm and pulled him aside roughly,then looked inside the coach.“If you’re looking for that ruffian,” said Finn, “I saw himleap from the coach and run off into the woods.”The soldier spun to face him. “Where? How far back?”“Damn me, I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Finn, producinga handkerchief and waving it in front of his nose. He hopedhis imitation of Blakeney’s voice would pass. He had not hadmuch time to practice and he wished he had Lucas Priest’sgift for mimicry. “I was hell bent for leather to try to catch thisrunaway coach and rescue my poor wife,” said Finn, with atouch of indignation. “I was far too anxious about her welfareto concern myself with your renegade aristocrat. He jumpedoff back there, somewhere.” He waved his handkerchief inthe direction of the road back to Paris.“You three,” said the officer, indicating several of his men,
“ride back and comb the woods; he couldn’t have gone far.”The men wheeled their horses and galloped off in the directionfrom which they came.“Have you seen a wagon,” said the officer, “loaded with winecasks?”“Lord, what do I know of wagons?” Finn said, rolling hiseyes. “I was almost killed back there! And my wife was almostshot! There’s a hole inside the coach where the ball passedthrough scant inches from her head! It was a dreadful experience,quite unnerving. I fear that I won’t sleep for weeks! Myinsides are all in knots. This is all too much for my frail constitution.All I desire to do is get back to merry England and leaveyou to your Revolution. I don’t care if I never set foot on Frenchsoil again!”“France will survive quite well without your kind, I think,”the officer said with a sneer.The Pimpernel Plot“Yes, but I fear that I may not survive France,” said Finn. Heleaned against the coach for support and wiped his foreheadwith his handkerchief. “Gad, what a horrible experience! Thatterrible man! I hope you’ll catch him and clap him in theBastille.”“We shall do a great deal more than that,” the soldier said.He put away his pistol, satisfied that Blakeney was no threat.“You are bound for Calais?”“Yes, if we can arrive there safely without being killed alongthe way,” said Finn. “Lord only knows what dangers await uson the road! I would be most grateful if you and your menwould see us to our destination safely. I would feel far moresecure in the company of soldiers of the Republic.”“Soldiers of the Republic have far more important things todo than to nursemaid weak-kneed Englishmen,” the lieutenantsaid, harshly. “I would advise you to be on your way andnot to stop until you’ve reached Calais. I wish you a speedycrossing of the Channel and good riddance.”The officer mounted and rode off with his two remainingmen, heading away from the city on the trail of the wine wagon.Finn took a deep breath and let it out slowly.“And good riddance to you,” said Finn. “Are you all right,my dear? You gave me quite a fright.”Lady Blakeney gave him an arch look. “It would appear thatit does not take very much to frighten you, Percy.”“Not much, you say? Why, having my own wife almost shotto death and myself almost being trampled by a horse and thenaccosted by those rough-mannered brigands who have thetemerity to call themselves soldiers—why, I would say that itwas much, indeed!”As he spoke, Finn took her measure. Marguerite Blakeneywas twenty-five years old, tall, and very well-proportioned withan ample bosom, a trim waist and long, slender legs, one ofwhich was briefly visible as she descended from the coach.Time Wars #3Her bright blue eyes met Finn’s as she attempted to effect repairsupon her coiffure, the lustrous auburn hair having beendisarranged while she was jostled about inside the coach. Shewas even lovelier in person, for the holographic image of herFinn had seen had not captured her voice and its inflections,her mannerisms, and it had caught only a hint of her earthy
sensuality. There was, however, a certain air of hostility abouther, testimony to the deteriorating relationship between herselfand Blakeney.She had a bit of the gamin in her, Finn saw, though it did notdetract in the least from her beauty. Rather, it enhanced it.Her facial expressions betrayed pride and stubbornness andalthough she hid it well, Finn could see that she had been hurtby Blakeney. Undoubtedly, she felt rejected, though Finn hadno way of knowing whether or not the St. Cyr affair had everbeen discussed between them or if Blakeney had simply acceptedit as a matter of course and, having been satisfied thatit was true, had locked it away inside himself like a guilty secret,never to be spoken of or even referred to. He decided, forthe sake of prudence, to adopt the latter attitude, unless Margueritebrought the matter up herself. He also decided to playit very close to the vest, for Marguerite’s eyes were shrewdand observant as she regarded him with a faintly puzzled air.“Are you quite well, my husband?” she said, cocking an eyebrowat him. “Somehow, you don’t sound quite yourself.”“I’m as well as could be expected for a man who’s come sonear to death,” he said, leaning back against the coach andshutting his eyes as he fanned himself with his handkerchief.“Faith, my dear, you must have the courage of a lion! Thatpistol ball could not have passed but a hair’s breadth from yourhead and there you stand, calm as can be, asking me if I amwell! Would that I were made of such stern stuff, my heartwould not then be pounding like a blacksmith’s hammer onan anvil!”The Pimpernel Plot“Well, then when your heart has stopped its fearsome pounding,perhaps we could continue on our journey,” Margueritesaid. “We shall not make Calais before tomorrow, even if wedrive hard all the way.” She glanced up at the empty box andsighed. “I fear that you will have to play the coachman. It appearsthat our fainthearted driver was frightened even morethan you were.”“That’s the trouble with these new ‘citizens,’” said Finn.“They put their own petty concerns above their duty. Well, itappears that there’s nothing for it. I shall have to drive, then.With any luck, we will make Amiens tonight and reach Calaistomorrow. Are you quite certain that you’re up to a hard ride?We could travel at an easy pace, but I’m suddenly very anxiousto go on with all dispatch. I fear that I shan’t feel safe untilwe’re on board the Day Dream.”Marguerite smiled, wryly. “Well, then I shall muster up mylion’s courage and steel myself for the dangers of our journey.”Her voice fairly dripped with sarcasm. “If you would beso kind, Percy, as to assist me back into the coach?”Finn gave her his arm and helped her up, then closed thedoor and mounted up into the box. He whipped up the horsesand drove the coach back onto the road. He drove at a briskpace and, within fifteen minutes or so, the coach came withinsight of the soldiers once again. There were only three of them,the officer and his two men, the others no doubt still beatingthe brush for the nonexistent ci-devant aristo. Finn saw thatthe soldiers had caught up to Fitzroy’s decoy wine wagon. Theyhad pulled it off to the side of the road, where the old manstood beside his young “son,” wringing his hands and wailingas the soldiers tore the wagon apart board by board, searching
for the Duc de Chalis. The officer looked up and gave Finna scornful glance as Finn gave him a cheery wave as the coachpassed by.It was already night when they reached Amiens and theTime Wars #3horses were all done in. Finn took a room for them at an innand saw to it that the coach and horses would be stabled forthe night and made ready for them early the next morning.Marguerite went up to the room to freshen up while Finn stayeddownstairs and drank some wine.So far, so good, he thought. Marguerite had accepted him asBlakeney, though there had never really been any questionabout that. He was, after all, the spitting image of Sir PercyBlakeney now and he had been prepared as thoroughly aspossible to play the role. For Marguerite to suspect him of beingan impostor was impossible. However, he would takeFitzroy’s advice and tread with care.There was a great deal to be done. Percy Blakeney had spentmost of his young life away from England. He would be knownat court, of course, since the late Algernon Blakeney had beena peer of the realm and the family holdings were extensive.Blakeney was one of the richest men in England. That, in itself,would be enough to secure his place in court society, butit would not be enough for this scenario.Finn would have to establish Blakeney’s character in such amanner that he would never be suspected of being the ScarletPimpernel. He would also have to make certain that a distancewould remain between himself, as Blakeney, and Marguerite.Otherwise, he might not be able to function as the Pimpernel.Finn could count on Lucas and Andre to help him in his effortsto join Ffoulkes and Dewhurst as the first members of theLeague of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Beyond that, he would beworking in the dark.At the height of Blakeney’s career, the League had boastedsome nineteen or twenty members. History was inexact as tothe figure. That, alone, could result in problems. What mighthappen if he did not recruit into the League someone the realBlakeney would have recruited? What would occur if he recruitedsomeone who had not, originally, been in the LeagueThe Pimpernel Plotat all? Due to the inertia of the timeflow, he had a certain flexibility;otherwise it would not have been possible to effect adjustments.However, given this particular scenario, there wereplenty of possibilities for things to go wrong. It was not thefirst time Delaney had found himself working in a period thatsuffered from inadequate prior documentation. He hadn’t likedit then and he did not much like it now. He liked being saddledwith Lady Blakeney even less.Unless Fitzroy contacted him with further information, hecould rely on Ffoulkes and Dewhurst to advise him on whomto recruit into the League. But Lady Blakeney could pose aformidable problem in more ways than one. She was intelligentand sharp and, although the place of a woman in the 18thcentury denied her a role in much of the pursuits of her husband,he would have to act in such a manner that her curiositywould not be aroused. To this end, he could utilize the recentrift between Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife, building upon itso that he would become the sort of husband whose wife found
him tiresome and unattractive. That would not be very difficultto accomplish. Marguerite was quite attractive and alreadyhad a reputation as a well-known actress and hostess. It wouldbe a simple matter to introduce her into London society, takinga back seat as the fashionably dull and foolish fop whileMarguerite had the spotlight to herself. She would quicklybecome the center of attention in any gathering and in no timeat all she would acquire her own circle of friends and admirers,who would keep her busy while he spirited aristos out ofFrance.Yet, there was the very real problem of his own reaction toMarguerite. From the very first moment he set eyes upon her,Finn found himself irresistibly attracted to the woman. To remainaloof and unconcerned with her would not be easy. Whenit came to matters of the flesh, discipline had never beenDelaney’s strong suit. As he sat alone at a corner table in theTime Wars #3inn, nursing his wine, he contemplated the possibility of beddingher that night.After all, he was her husband. She might welcome a suddenthaw in their relationship and the situation was quite conduciveto it. They had just been through a harrowing experiencetogether, the sort of thing that raises the adrenaline and leadspeople to seek pleasant release in sexual activity. One night,when matters of the preceding day led them to rediscover thejoys they knew when first they wed, one night, what harm couldit do? The next day, he could resume the status quo, actingembarrassed, awkward, perhaps a little angered at havinggiven in to the pressures of the moment. Things like that happenedall the time.But, no. It would not be wise. She already bore resentmenttoward her husband, whose ardor had so considerably cooledand whose devotion had become little more than a matter ofform. To start something now, only to end it just as abruptly, asnecessity dictated, would only make matters that much worse.He needed Marguerite to be bored with Blakeney, not furiouswith him. He would have to put his lust aside, something thatnever had been easy and would be that much more difficult,due to the fact that he would have to share a bed with her.“Damn,” Finn mumbled softly, to himself, “I should havethought to take separate rooms for us.”“Sir?” said a soft voice at his side. He turned to see a youngserving girl who stood hesitantly by the table, smiling awkwardly.“Yes, what is it?”“The lady bid me tell you that she is quite exhausted fromthe journey and will not sup tonight. She begs you to excuseher and to take your meal at your leisure, if you will. She iscontent to simply rest for tomorrow’s journey.”Well, that settles that, thought Finn. She’ll be fast asleep whenI come up. Now if I can only keep my hands off her in theThe Pimpernel Plotmiddle of the night….He thanked the girl and had her bring him a supper of coldmeat, bread, and fruit. He drank more wine and began to feelrelaxed for the first time that day. He purchased a clay pipe fora few pennies from the innkeeper, who overcharged him, seeingthat he was wealthy, and he settled back in his chair withthe long churchwarden filled with Turkish Latakia. He smoked
slowly, enjoying the strong black tobacco and sipping the inn’ssomewhat plebeian Bordeaux, which was nevertheless quitesatisfying after the bumpy, dusty journey. He bought a few moreclays and some tobacco to take along with him the followingday, so that he could relax and smoke while they crossed theChannel, then he made his way upstairs.Marguerite was in bed, with the covers drawn up over her.She had left a candle burning for him and the single lightbathed the room in a soft and cozy glow. He saw that Margueritehad laid his sleeping gown out for him, along with his nightcap,both of which he appraised with slight annoyance. He didnot like to be encumbered while he slept. Still, the characterseemed to call for it and he resigned himself to nightclothes.He only hoped that there would be no bedbugs to keep himcompany.Moving very quietly, so as not to waken Marguerite, Finnslowly undressed. When he had taken off his last item of clothing,he heard a rustling in the bed behind him and, thinkingthat he might have made some sound that had disturbed his“wife,” he froze for a moment.“Are you then well fed and rested, Percy?” Marguerite saidsoftly, her voice barely above a whisper.Finn turned and saw that she had pulled aside the coversand was lying naked in the bed, in a deliberately and blatantlyseductive pose. Her hair was fanned out on the pillow and itglinted like red gold in the candlelight. Her soft skin was withouta blemish and her perfectly shaped breasts rose and fellTime Wars #3slightly as she breathed through parted lips.Moving quickly, Delaney blew out the candle so that shewould not see what he was unable to conceal, then he made aquick grab for the nightgown. He barely stifled a moan of frustration.“Forgive me, my dear, I did not mean to wake you,” he said,adding an audible yawn. “Lord, it’s a wonder you’re not sleepinglike the dead after today’s exertions. Myself, I am quitedone in. It was all that I could do to make it up the stairs.”He heard a heavy sigh in the darkness. “Come to bed andsleep, then,” Marguerite said, flatly. “You wanted to leave earlyin the morning and you need your rest.”Finn bit his lower lip and felt his way to the bed, then got inbeside her and turned on his left side, so that he faced awayfrom her. He yawned once more, for effect.“Gad, what a day!” he said. “I feel like I could sleep for ahundred years.”There was no good night, from her side of the bed.“Well, good night, then,” Finn said. He waited a few minutes,then faked the sounds of snoring. Several minutes later,he heard Marguerite get out of bed and slip into her nightgown,then gently get back into bed. Soon, she was asleep.Finn, on the other hand, knew that he would be lucky if he gotany sleep at all. And he knew that in the morning, he wouldhate himself.The Pimpernel Plot3They arrived at Calais the following evening, having stoppedseveral times to change horses en route. It had been a long,hard drive. Finn was sore and covered with road dust. Margueritehad been shaken up inside the coach, but she issued
not one word of complaint. They drove directly to the port andas he looked out into the bay, Finn could see a graceful fifty-footschooner with a long and slender bowsprit riding at anchor,its twin masts barely visible in the dusk. They left the coach atan inn and hired a small boat to take them out to the DayDream.It was brisk out on the water and Marguerite shivered inher inadequate cloak as she clutched it around her, but shedidn’t say a word. Finn had to admire her. She had been shotin the head, had some minor field surgery performed on her,though she didn’t know it, been drugged, bounced around insidea coach on bumpy, rut-filled country roads for some onehundred and fifty miles, which they had covered in an astonishingtwo days, exhausting several teams of horses in the process,and now she was being violently rocked up and down asthe small boat pulled out toward the Day Dream in the choppywaters of the Channel. The cold wind sliced through her fashionablylight hooded cloak as though it wasn’t even there and,with the exception of a slight shaking of the shoulders and abarely noticeable tremor of the lower lip, Marguerite remainedcalm and poised, as though she were out for a row upon aplacid country lake.The boat pulled up to the yacht and one of the crewmendropped a rope ladder over the side. As the boatman hungonto the bottom of the ladder, trying to keep the rowboat steadyin the swells, Finn helped Marguerite up the ladder, stayingclose behind her and holding on tight in case she should loseTime Wars #3her grip and fall. She climbed a bit uncertainly, unaccustomedto having the world rolling all round her, but she hung on tenaciouslyand in moments, a crewman was giving her a handon board. She thanked the young man, who smiled awkwardlyin her presence, and turned back to look at Finn with a slightlyshaky smile.“Which way to my room, Percy? Oh, yes, it’s called a cabinon a boat, is it not?”“Allow me, my lady,” said a tall, sandy-haired young man ofabout twenty-six or seven, who came up to them and offeredher his arm. He flashed a dazzling smile at her. “Lord AntonyDewhurst, at your service, ma’am. You must be terribly fatiguedafter your journey. I’ve taken the liberty of having yourcabin prepared and your bunk turned down. There’s freshwater for washing and Stevens here will bring you supper anda rum toddy momentarily. I think that you will find the bracingsea air quite conducive to deep and restful sleep. We shallbe sailing on the morning tide.”“You’re most kind, Lord Dewhurst.”“Antony, ma’am,” he said with a grin, “or Tony, if you prefer.That’s what all my friends call me.”“Thank you, Tony. I think I will retire, if you gentlemen willexcuse me.”Dewhurst led her away belowdeck, with a quick glance backat Finn to tell him that he would come right back at once. Finnleaned against the mainmast amidships and pulled out one ofhis clays. He filled it with tobacco and tamped it down; then,hunching over it and cupping his hand against the wind, hegot it lit after several tries and settled down against the teakrailing to wait for Dewhurst to return. With the exception ofthe captain, a weatherbeaten old salt named Briggs, who only
bid him welcome aboard and asked if there was anything thathe could do for him, the rest of the crew left him to his privacy.Briggs brought him a pewter flask filled with rum and thenThe Pimpernel Plotdeparted once again to his own cabin. After several moments,Dewhurst returned.“I say, Percy, she’s absolutely marvelous! Beautiful, charmingand intelligent; you’ll be the envy of every man in London.”“I daresay,” said Finn, “excepting those who cannot abidethe barbarity currently practiced on these shores.”Dewhurst looked suddenly glum. “It’s true, then, about St.Cyr?”“You’ve heard, then?” Finn said cautiously, to draw him out.“Aye, news travels fast when it’s bad news,” said Dewhurst.“What are you going to do?”“Faith, what can I do? She is my wife, Tony. I am married toher past, as well as to her future.”“What about Ffoulkes? Is he well away? Have you seen him?”“Aye, he’s well away. He got out the gate a bit ahead of us,but we did not pass him on the road. No doubt he pulled offthe main road until he was certain it was safe to go on. Therewas trouble, though. Soldiers pursued him, but they pulledover the wrong wagon. I passed them as they were tearing itapart in search of human contraband.”“He’ll make it, won’t he, Percy?” Dewhurst said, concernshowing on his face.Finn nodded. “He’ll make it. Andrew is no fool. But we mustsail to Dover without him. I cannot risk having de Chalis andMarguerite come face to face. It will ruin everything. We shallhave to send the Day Dream back for them.”“Poor St. Just,” said Dewhurst.“What’s that?” said Finn“Oh, I said, ‘Poor St. Just.’ The only one of the Feuillantswith any influence left and they appoint him to the Committeeof Public Safety, where he’s outnumbered by Robespierre’sJacobins. If only it were the other way around. Yet there hesits, teetering on the edge of the abyss, while Fouquier-TinvilleTime Wars #3pursues his butchery. Without his help, we would never havegot de Chalis out alive, yet I fear that it will be a poor atonementfor his sister’s crime.” Realizing, suddenly, what he hadsaid, Dewhurst looked aghast at Finn. “God, Percy, forgive me!I didn’t think. That was a frightfully cruel thing to say.”“Yet, nevertheless, it’s true,” said Finn. So Armand St. Just,along with Lafayette, was one of the moderate monarchistswho had separated from the Jacobins. He was sympathetic toBlakeney’s cause, enough so that he had taken an active partin it. That was something Delaney had not known. It was avery worthwhile piece of information. If the bloody excessesof the Revolution, combined with his sister’s part in the fall ofthe Marquis de St. Cyr, were an affront to his humanistic sensibilities,Armand could be used. Indeed, it appeared thatBlakeney had used him already.“Still, I’m very sorry, Percy. She is your wife, after all. I hopeyou can forgive me.”“There’s nothing to forgive, Tony. The times have given allof us strange bedfellows.”“I say, that’s a little crude,” said Dewhurst, a bit taken aback.
“These days, l have little patience for the delicacies of politebehavior,” Finn said. “It smacks of hypocrisy, what with peoplebeing slaughtered left and right in the name of liberty, fraternityand equality. A poet once said, ‘If you can keep your headwhile all about you are losing theirs….’” He broke off, realizingthat the poet in question, Rudyard Kipling, would not beborn until 1865. “Well, I intend to keep my head,” he said. “Andto do everything in my power to keep as many as possible fromlosing theirs. The guillotine is an abomination and I have setmyself the task of denying it as many victims as I can. This isthe very least that I can do. It won’t bring back St. Cyr or makethe knowledge of Marguerite’s part in his execution any easierto bear, but if I can spare others from his fate, any risk wouldbe worthwhile. It’s not enough to simply spirit one aristocratThe Pimpernel Plotout of the country. I must try to save as many as I can and thenrub Fouquier Tinville’s nose in it!”“In principle, I’m all for it,” Dewhurst said, “but in practice,it would be quite dangerous. Then, too, there is the matter ofLady Blakeney’s views, although I hesitate to dwell upon thematter.”“She must never know, of course,” said Finn. “I will have towork in secret.”“Then each of those you help will have to be sworn to secrecy,as well,” said Dewhurst. “The only thing is, despite allgood intentions, secrets do not remain secrets for long whenthose who share them grow great in number.”Finn nodded. “I’m certain that the Duc de Chalis can betrusted not to speak of his benefactors. As for any others, I’llhave to take great pains to conceal my identity from them.”“Any subterfuge along those lines would come to noughtthe moment anyone inquired as to the identity of the owner ofthis boat,” said Dewhurst. “You cannot hope to use the DayDream in your plans and still remain unknown. She is far frombeing inconspicuous and she won’t be lost among more commoncraft.”Finn smiled. “Then I shall sell her.”Dewhurst frowned. “But then, how—”“After all,” continued Finn, “I’ve grown tired of traveling andI’m on my way back to England to take charge of my affairs. Ino longer have need of such an extravagant yacht since I willbe staying in London most of the time. As a matter of fact, I’vealready sold her.”“What? To whom?”“Why, to you, Tony.”“To me?”“Yes, to you. You’ve wanted her for years, haven’t you? You’vebeen after me to sell the Day Dream to you for as long as we’veknown each other.”Time Wars #3“What? Percy, what on earth are you talking about? I’venever—”“Yes, I know you’ve never done any such thing. You know itand I know it, but no one else knows it and that’s all that reallymatters.”“I don’t understand this at all, Percy. What the devil are yougetting at?”“Look, Tony, you don’t spend all of your time sailing about
in the English Channel, do you? Being the new owner of sucha fine boat, is there any reason why you shouldn’t realize someprofit from her? Allow Briggs to take on some small commissionsto help pay for the Day Dream’s upkeep and keep thecrew from being idle? As a matter of fact, the moment we returnto England, you’ll be offered just such a commission, byan agent whose name you will conveniently forget. You willbe very much surprised when you discover that it was for thepurpose of helping the Duc de Chalis escape from France.When you discover this extraordinary fact, you’ll be so astonishedand delighted that, as a gesture of noble idealism, youwill instruct Briggs to keep the boat available to this unknownadventurer, whose face no one will ever see. You and Ffoulkeswill make a grand show of helping the new arrivals find a placefor themselves in England. You’ll speak a great deal about thisman of mystery whose cause you have elected to support, eventhough you don’t know anything about him.” Finn grinned.“Before too long, I’m certain that you’ll be receiving contributionsfrom everyone in London to pass on to Briggs, so that hecan give it to the agents of this adventurer. If it’s managedright, we can make him a folk hero.”“Don’t you mean ‘make yourself a folk hero’?” Dewhurst saidwith a smirk. “Why this sudden modesty, Percy?”“Because it isn’t really me,” said Finn. “I don’t matter, not asPercy Blakeney, individual. It’s the principle involved, the ideaof the thing. Suppose for a moment that I acted as myself, asThe Pimpernel PlotPercy Blakeney, smuggling people out of France at great riskto myself. What would the resulting public opinion be? Somewould support me, to be sure, others would think I was a fool.As that faction in Parliament who oppose our intervention inthe Revolution say, ‘Let ‘em murder!’ I would attract some attentionfor a while as a man with the courage to act on hisconvictions, but in due course, the novelty would wear off andpeople would grow bored with the whole thing. On the otherhand, people love a mystery. If we have some romantic, unknownadventurer cheating the guillotine of victims, that wouldcapture the public’s fancy. Who is he? Where did he come from?What is he like, this anonymous crusader against injustice?It’s not the man that counts, Tony, it’s the image. You see whatI mean, don’t you?”“Aye, I do. It strikes me that you’ve missed your calling, Percy.You should have been a politician or a dramatist. You seem tohave an uncanny knack for understanding public opinion andemotions. As you say, the imagination of the people would indeedbe captured by an adventurer such as you describe, acrusader who cloaks himself in mystery. Such a figure wouldappear to be larger than life and would become a cause célèbre.”“Precisely. We can all help to create him together,” said Finn.“We can recruit others into our cause, though we must do sowith great care. We will form a league together, with this unknowncrusader as our leader. The role that you and Ffoulkesmust play in public must be that of men who are only involvedindirectly with this man. It must be necessary for you to beable to account for your activities at the times when this crusaderis at work; this is for your safety.”“Why must we be known to be involved at all?” saidDewhurst.“Because I shall need my Boswells,” said Delaney. “It will
be necessary for the public to know something of the activitiesof this crusader if we are to curry their favor. Publicly, you willTime Wars #3attest to his existence, though you will claim to know nothingof him whatsoever. You will be contacted by his league, hisagents, by surreptitious means and told when to prepare forreceiving escapees from France. Publicly, you will never setfoot on French soil. Rather, you will instruct Briggs when tohave the Day Dream ready, when and where to have her waitingto accept aristocrats saved by our crusader. When theyarrive in England, they will then be in your charge and youand Ffoulkes will help them find a place in our society. Thiswill leave you free to speak of this crusader and his league asthe two of you, perhaps more than any others, will then be ina position to wonder at his true identity. You can help to fanthe flame of public curiosity and in this manner elicit theirsupport.”“What about yourself?” said Dewhurst. “You will join us inthis charade?”“No, I will not,” said Finn. “I must create about myself anaura such that will insure that I can never be suspect in thismatter. Only then will I be free to act. I shall have to be aneven greater actor than my wife, for I will have to fool her,along with everybody else. None but you and Ffoulkes, as wellas Briggs, for I must take him into my confidence, must knowthe part that I will play in all of this.”“What of the Duc de Chalis?” Dewhurst said.“I shall have to speak with him and prepare him for the parthe is to play,” said Finn. “As for the rest of it, you are quiteright. We must limit the number of those who share our secret.”Dewhurst smiled. “I must say, it all sounds like a great dealof fun.”“It will be very dangerous,” said Finn.Dewhurst shrugged. “It will be fine sport. And what is sportwithout some element of risk?” He laughed. “By God, I’m reallygoing to enjoy this! I can’t wait to get started!”The Pimpernel PlotFinn smiled. “We have already started, Tony. Let’s have adrink on it. To the speedy and safe arrival of Andrew Ffoulkesand to the creation of our mysterious crusader!”Finn took a sip of rum and then passed it to Dewhurst.“What shall we call him, then?” said Dewhurst. “He will haveto have a name, this flower of English manhood pitted againstthe fleur-de-lis of France.”“Yes, he shall,” said Finn, “or he will be a common flower,indeed.”Dewhurst chuckled. “Even a common English waysideflower smells sweeter to me than any of those that grow inFrance.”“A common English wayside flower,” said Finn, musing. “Say,like a pimpernel?”“The pimpernel,” said Dewhurst, considering. He grinned.“The Scarlet Pimpernel!”Finn raised his eyebrows. “It has a sort of ring to it.”“I like it,” Dewhurst said. He raised the flask in a toast. “Tothe League of the Scarlet Pimpernel!”The Fisherman’s Rest in Dover, in the county of Kent, was awarm and pleasant sanctuary from the damp and piscatory air
of the cliffside town. They came in out of the mist to be greetedby the welcome warmth and glow of Mr. Jellyband’s fireplace.The proprietor, a jovial, well-girthed innkeeper with a baldingpate and a hail-fellow-well-met air, bowed to them as theycame in and immediately dispatched his serving girl to thekitchen with orders for the help to snap to, as obviouslywell-heeled patrons had arrived.The inn had more of the air of a country hostel than a“fisherman’s rest,” for it was clean and bright, with a red-tiledfloor that was kept spotless and dark oak rafters and beams.The tables, though marked with the ancient circles of manypewter mugs that had overflowed, were well polished and thereTime Wars #3were pots of scarlet and blue flowers in the windows. Theyhung up their cloaks and made themselves comfortable at along table Jellyband ushered them to.“Your pardon, gentlemen,” said Jellyband, wringing hishands in his obvious anxiety to please, “would one of you happen,by any chance, to be the honorable Sir Percy Blakeney?”“I have the honor to answer to that name,” said Finn.“Ah, yes, well, there is a young woman here expecting thearrival of your lordship,” Jellyband said.“Indeed?” said Marguerite.“One of his lordship’s servants, I believe,” Jellyband added,hastily. “A young woman of a most peculiar temperament, ifyou will excuse the observation, she was most insistent thatI—”“That would be Andre, I believe,” said Finn.“Andre?” said Marguerite. “I thought you said that it was ayoung woman?”“Andre is a young woman, my dear,” said Finn. “Her familyhas served the Blakeneys for years. She was part of the servingstaff at my estate in Rouen. I sent her on ahead with Lucasto make certain that all was in readiness for us at Richmond.Regrettably, they were the only two of all my staff there whohave shown me the least bit of loyalty. The others were all sofull of revolutionary zeal that they all elected to become freecitizens and, as such, could hardly be expected to continue inthe service of a despised aristocrat such as myself. Go andfetch her, my good man,” he said to Jellyband. Then turningto Marguerite, he added, “She is of Basque origin, I believe,and possesses the roughness and independent spirit of thosepeople. She is, however, loyal, and makes an admirable servant.”“Is she pretty?” Marguerite said, archly.Finn frowned. “Pretty? Faith, I can’t say as I’ve ever noticed,really.”The Pimpernel Plot“How singularly unobservant of you,” Marguerite said.“Well, at any rate, you may judge for yourself,” said Finn.“She will doubtless be here momentarily.”The innkeeper returned, with Andre following behind. IfMarguerite had expected to see a well-turned-out serving girlin a clinging bodice darting bold glances at Sir Percy, she wasdisappointed. Andre was dressed in riding boots and breeches.She had on a plain brown jacket with a matching waistcoat; awhite shirt not altogether clean; a bit of lace adornment at thethroat, begrimed with road dust; and a simple tricorne, whichshe carried in her left hand. Her blond hair was worn loose
and was considerably shorter than the style of the day dictated.“I say,” said Dewhurst, “there’s a manly looking wench.Shoulders like a farmboy’s and a manner like a soldier’s.”Marguerite sat silent, appraising Andre. Finn had the feelingthat Lady Blakeney would just as coolly and as carefullytake the measure of everyone and everything involved withher husband and her new life in England. It was the actress inher. She wanted to be thoroughly familiar with the set, to knowwhere every light and prop was, where every other actor wasto stand and what lines he was to deliver. Perhaps “Percy”hadn’t noticed whether or not Andre was pretty, but he couldbet that Lady Blakeney noticed everything.“Well, then, Andre,” Finn said, “is everything in readinessfor us at Richmond? How stands the old estate? I trust that ithas not fallen into disrepair?”“Oh, no, milord,” said Andre. “The estate has been kept upmost admirably and Master Lucas is there presently to makecertain that all are prepared for your arrival. The news hascaused a good deal of excitement. There has been a great dealof scurrying and cleaning and polishing and several of theneighbors have already sent servants to inquire as to whenyou and Lady Blakeney would be arriving.”Time Wars #3“Ah, you see, Dewhurst,” said Finn, “the Blakeney name stillstands for something. It appears that we have not been forgotten.”“Or your money has not been forgotten,” Marguerite said,dryly.“My name, my money, what’s the difference?” Finn said withan airy wave. “If I were a pauper, I would not be a Blakeney,nor would you be, my dear, for chances are that I would thennever have set foot in France to be captivated by your charms.What, I see our food’s arriving. Andre, have you eaten? No?Innkeeper, Jellybelly, whatever your name is, see to it that myservant’s fed, there’s a good man. And Andre, after you haveeaten you may ride ahead and inform Master Lucas that weshall be arriving at Richmond this evening, lest somethingshould happen to delay us. Lord, there have been enough adventureson this trip already! I pray that the remainder of ourjourney will be safely dull and devastating in its boredom. I’vehad enough stimulation these past several days to last me alifetime!”“If you don’t mind, Percy,” Marguerite said, rising, “I thinkthat I will take my meal in my room. I fear that the effects ofthe Channel crossing have not quite worn off and I should liketo be refreshed and rested before we continue on our way.”She turned to Dewhurst and smiled. “I will leave you gentlemento discuss the pressing matters which no doubt await usall in London. Since the neighbors are inquiring as to our arrivaltime, doubtless they plan some entertainment and, in sucha case, if Lady Blakeney is to be shown off to her best advantage,it would be well that she were rested. You may send forme after you have had your port and pipes and are ready tocontinue.”She curtsied and departed.Dewhurst shook his head. “Faith, Percy, if you are out toencourage Marguerite’s indifference, it would seem that youThe Pimpernel Plotare making a good start.”
“Oh, there is one thing more, milord,” said Andre, “thatMaster Lucas bid me bring to your attention.”“And what would that be, pray?” said Finn.“A minor matter, surely,” Andre replied, guardedly, “andnothing that should overly concern your lordship. Rather, it isa matter for the gamekeeper, though Master Lucas wished meto inform you of it in the event that it required his attentionand he was not there to greet you when you arrived.”Finn frowned. What on earth was she getting at?“Why should Lucas be concerned over something that wouldbe the province of the gamekeeper?” he said, genuinelypuzzled.“Well, milord, it seems that some animal has been hard atwork butchering the grouse on your estate,” said Andre. “Thegamekeeper has been at a loss to trap it and he keeps insistingthat it is some exotic creature not native to these parts. MasterLucas has resolved to look into the matter personally, in casethe gamekeeper has been drinking overmuch or doing somepoaching on the side and blaming it on this unlikely creature.”At the mention of the words, “not native to these parts,” Finncame fully on the alert.“What sort of creature does the gamekeeper say it is, praytell?” he said, feigning only mild curiosity.Andre stared at him steadily. “A mongoose, milord.”“What, a mongoose, did you say?” said Dewhurst. “Surely,you must be mistaken. A weasel or a ferret, perhaps, eventhough such creatures do not normally kill grouse, but surelynot a mongoose. There are no mongoose in England. Suchcreatures are generally found in India and thereabouts. You’requite certain that he said it was a mongoose?”“Quite certain, milord,” said Andre. She glanced again atFinn. “As I said, a creature not native to these parts.”“How very interesting,” said Dewhurst. “This servant ofTime Wars #3yours, Percy, would he know a mongoose if he saw one?”“Most assuredly,” said Finn. “Lucas was a sailor once andhe has also been a tracker. He has hunted all over the world.”“He sounds like quite a fellow,” Dewhurst said. “I’m lookingforward to meeting him. Still, a mongoose! Well, I suppose itmight be possible. I have heard that these creatures are frequentlycaptured and domesticated in the east. Perhaps someonebrought one into England and it got away, reverting to itswild state.”“Well, I shall hope that Lucas catches it, whatever it may be,before the creature spoils the shooting,” Finn said. However,he knew that Andre was not referring to an animal. The onlymongoose they all knew was human and he was highly dangerous.Moreover, he was supposed to be confined to the 27thcentury, barred from field work. Finn met Andre’s gaze andsaw by the expression on her face that he had guessed correctly.So they had not seen the last of Mongoose, after all. Thatworried him. It worried him a great deal.The Pimpernel Plot4The Blakeney estate in Richmond was an elegant testimonyto the fortune amassed by Sir Algernon Blakeney before hiswife was struck down with her unfortunate malady. Havingexhausted all hope of curing her in England, the elder Blakeney
had sought the advice of countless physicians abroad, all to noavail. She died, hopelessly insane. Algernon Blakeney couldnot bear to return to his estate, where everything remindedhim of the life he shared with his beloved wife, but he couldnot bear to sell it, either. Leaving the estate and the managementof his fortune in capable and trusted hands, he lived outwhat life was left to him traveling abroad. His solicitors lookedafter his interests back in England, knowing that young Percywould one day return to claim his rightful place and title.Percy, or Finn, was now returning to discover that his wealthhad increased tenfold due to shrewd management and that,as a result, there was now a great deal of interest in him. Whatlittle was known of him filtered back to England from Zurich,Genoa and Brussels, news of him brought back by travelersand friends such as Ffoulkes and Dewhurst, wealthy scionsboth, who had spent time with him abroad.The coach turned into the drive leading up to the entranceof the palatial red-brick mansion, which dated back to theTudor days. The grounds covered some 2500 acres and encompasseda wooded area that teemed with deer; a number ofponds ranging in size from small tree-shaded pools to littlelakes, all stocked with fish, several immaculately maintainedparks with graceful gardens; white gravel paths andivy-covered gazebos and guest houses; and smaller cottagesreserved for the serving staff who did not reside in the mansionitself, these being the gamekeeper, the stableboys andmaster, the houndkeepers, and the gardeners and woodsmen.Time Wars #3All were supported by the Blakeney fortune and the patronageof less well-heeled gentry, who were allowed the use of thegrounds occasionally for the purposes of shoots and riding tohounds. This practice, initiated in Blakeney’s absence by hissolicitors, helped to support the estate and keep the servingstaff in trim, as well as the hounds from growing fat and lazy.Now, with the return of Blakeney, the tenure of such usagewas in doubt and many among the local bluebloods were ontenterhooks, anxious to curry favor with young Blakeney sothat he would not, by his resumption of the tenancy, put anend to their recreations. Finn found a large number of callingcards awaiting him and no small amount of invitations to parties,balls and dinners. Among these were invitations frompersonages no less illustrious than Lord Grenville, the ForeignSecretary, and His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales.Marguerite was quite obviously taken aback by the splendorof the estate. She had known, of course, that she had marriedan extremely wealthy man, but it was not the palatial representationof that wealth that so impressed her so much asthe sheer beauty of the grounds. Finn, on the other hand, affectedboredom and leaned back in his seat with his eyes halfclosed.The coach pulled up in front of the Elizabethan entrancehall, stopping between the steps leading up into the house anda huge sundial on the beautifully trimmed lawn. Andre hadridden on ahead, as directed, and now a small platoon ofgrooms stood by to receive them and the coach. As Finn andMarguerite disembarked, the coach was taken to the stablessome distance away and servants busied themselves carryingtheir things into the house. Dewhurst had remained behind inDover, to await the arrival of Andrew Ffoulkes and his charges
and to deliver a message to the Duc de Chalis from Sir PercyBlakeney.Both Lucas and Andre stood by inside the hall to greet them,The Pimpernel PlotLucas having obviously established himself as chiefwhipcracker with the staff. He was attired elegantly in a darkgreen jacket with a high collar and wide lapels, black breeches,clean stockings and shiny buckle shoes. Andre had changedinto a simple dress and, though Finn knew well that she despisedit, she had put on a wig to create an air of subduedfemininity. She looked well enough, but she was obviouslyuncomfortable and it showed in her manner.Finn noted that Lucas had already arranged things so thatSir Percy Blakeney and his wife would occupy two separatesuites of apartments above the reception rooms, each separatedfrom the other by the width of the entire house. Margueritemade no comment concerning this arrangement andallowed herself to be shown to her suite by Andre. Lucas directedthe other servants to take Finn’s portmanteau and chestsup to his rooms and then waited until they had all departedand he was alone with Finn.“She’s a hell of a fine-looking woman,” Lucas said, noddingin the direction Marguerite had taken. “Considering the waythings stand, I hope you’ve kept your hands off her.”“I have, but it hasn’t been easy,” Finn said.“She could cause some trouble.”“I know. But forget about Marguerite for now. What’s thisabout Mongoose? Are you telling me he’s here?”Lucas nodded. “Yeah. Surprise.”“You’re sure?”“I’m sure,” said Lucas, taking his arm. “Come on, let’s takea walk. I don’t feel especially safe discussing this inside. Everyonehere is mighty curious about you and I wouldn’t wantus to be overheard.”They went outside into the growing darkness and followeda gravel path that led to a garden at the side of the sprawlingmansion. Here, after they passed through a gate of hedges,there was privacy for them where they could either strollTime Wars #3through the maze of immaculate hedgerows taller than a manor sit and talk in one of several green enclosures in whichmarble benches had been placed, as well as marble urns forthe knocking out of pipe dottles.“A guy could get lost in here,” said Finn.“He could, if he didn’t know the trick,” said Lucas. “You cansee into the maze from the upstairs terrace. It looks deceptivelysimple until you get down here. Algernon Blakeney hada prankster’s sense of humor. From upstairs, you can see peoplemuddling about down here, trying to find their way out. Youcan see which way they have to go, but they can’t. I memorizedthe sequence of the turns you have to take, but it wasn’tuntil I actually got down here that I discovered that there’s akey to the maze that’ll guide you out in case you forgot theway. Notice how the benches are placed? There’s a bench nearevery key branching off point. The placement of the marbleurns, whether on the right or left hand side of the benches,tells you which way you have to go.”They came to a bench and sat down, hidden from any prying
eyes except those which might be watching from the upstairsterrace. However, in the growing darkness, they werealmost invisible.Lucas took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “The otherday, one of the grooms came up to me and handed me a note,addressed to Sir Percy Blakeney. Thinking it might be yet anotherinvitation or some such thing, I didn’t open it right away.I should have. It was from Mongoose. It seems that he’s ourcontact. Oh, and by the way, the groom was a tall, dark-hairedfellow with a beard. I’ve since discovered that none ofBlakeney’s grooms wear beards. Mongoose still likes playinggames with cute disguises.”Finn shook his head. “I don’t believe it. How in hell did hemanage to pull field duty after screwing up so badly on theTimekeeper case? I thought Forrester said he’d been demotedThe Pimpernel Plotto the TIA’s evaluations section? How did he wind up in theObservers?”“He does have the necessary qualifications,” Lucas said.“I know that. I just can’t believe that the Observers wouldaccept him after he almost blew an adjustment. Besides, doesn’tit strike you as one hell of a coincidence that our paths justhappened to cross again?”“No more of a coincidence than our meeting up with Andrein 17th Century Paris,” said Lucas.“Maybe,” said Finn. “Back when I was in RCS, we did a wholeyear on coincidence as it relates to the Fate Factor. We used tocall it ‘zen physics.’ But I somehow doubt that temporal inertiahad anything to do with Mongoose’s showing up here atthe same time as we did.”“You’re thinking that it’s too much of a coincidence.”“That’s exactly what I’m thinking. In fact, I’ve thought oflittle else since Andre gave me your message back in Dover. Ijust can’t see him being given an assignment in the field afterwhat happened. I can’t believe it’s on the level. It occurs to methat if he had spent some time in evaluating TIA data, then hehad access to the records. He might have indulged in somekind of creative programming.”“That occurred to me as well,” said Lucas, “but I wanted tohear you say it, just to convince myself that I wasn’t gettingtoo paranoid. Still, what we’re talking about is computer crime.Unauthorized access and alteration of classified informationwould carry a sentence of life imprisonment. No reeducation,no parole, just hard time in confined social service. WouldMongoose chance something like that?”“We’ve already established that he’s several cards short of afull deck,” said Finn. “He’s a megalomaniac who thinks thathe can get away with anything. But that’s not what worriesme. We’re the ones who caused his fall from grace as the TIA’snumber-one field operative. We’re also the ones who blockedTime Wars #3the agency’s attempt to muscle in on the army’s jurisdiction inadjustment missions.”“Mongoose brought what happened on himself,” said Lucas.“You don’t really expect him to see it that way, do you?” Finnasked. “Not our boy Mongoose. His ego couldn’t handle that.You been in touch with Fitzroy about this?”Lucas shook his head. “I didn’t want to do anything until I
talked to you first. According to the note I got from Mongoose,Fitzroy’s set up a safehouse in Paris so he can be close to wherethe action is. Mongoose is our contact in England, which meansthat if I push the panic button, he’s going to respond and notFitzroy. At least, that’s the way it should work in practice. Youthink he’ll answer if we signal?”“I’m not sure what to think,” said Finn. “It doesn’t look good.”“The first year of RCS includes some heavy courses in advancedcomputer science, doesn’t it?” said Lucas. “You takethat and add it to the fact that Mongoose had to have top clearanceto work in the evaluations section and you’ve got all thenecessary ingredients for his figuring out a way to program anunauthorized transfer. Still, I don’t see how he could possiblyhope to get away with it. He might be smart enough to havefigured out a way to beat the safeguards in the TIA data banksand to have interfaced with the Temporal Corps personnel files,but the records could still be cross-checked against the RefereeCorps’ databanks.”“But there would be no reason for anyone to run a crosscheckon him unless someone specifically brought the matter up,”said Finn. “The refs have too much to do to bother runningroutine checks on personnel records. Hell, maybe we’re wayoff base and someone just screwed up and approved his transfer.”“You think maybe Darrow might’ve covered for him?” Lucassaid. “Mongoose was his top agent, after all. He had a goodrecord until he got in over his head. The fact that Darrow didn’tThe Pimpernel Plotbust him out of the agency proves that he was protective of hispeople.”“But Darrow resigned as director after that whole Timekeeperflap,” said Finn.“So?” said Lucas. “He resigned because his position gavehim the luxury to do so. Mongoose would’ve been stuck in anadministrative job. Forrester might have considered it a slapon the wrist, but Mongoose loved field work. We both know hegot high off taking chances. For him, a desk job would’ve beenslow death and with a new director coming in, a black marklike endangering an adjustment mission might have cost himeven that job in a periodic review. Darrow might have donehim one last favor before he left.”“It’s possible,” said Finn. “In any case, there’s no way I’mgoing to work with him again. I’m going to have to lay the lawdown to Fitzroy. Either Mongoose gets pulled off this missionor the Scarlet Pimpernel goes on strike for the duration.”“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lucas. “You know you can’t dothat.”“Yeah, you’re right. That’s wishful thinking. Still, we can doour damnedest to convince Fitzroy that Mongoose representsa threat to this operation. We’re not exactly his favorite people.He’s got it in for us, I’m sure of it. This is all just a bit tooserendipitous.”“You don’t suppose he’d purposely jeopardize an adjustmentjust for his own personal….” Lucas’s voice trailed off.“Yeah, funny thing about that,” Finn said. “That’s exactlywhat he did the last time. He almost blew the mission just sohe could fight his own private war against the Timekeepers. Itwouldn’t be out of character for him. I’ve got this feeling ofdeja vu and I don’t care for it one bit.”“Well, all this guesswork isn’t going to get us anywhere,”
said Lucas. “We’re going to have to find out for sure what thesituation is. I think I’d better send Andre back to Paris to seeTime Wars #3Fitzroy.”Finn shook his head. “No, you go. Besides, I need her hereto keep an eye on Marguerite. You could do a better job ofconvincing Fitzroy to check him out than Andre could. Thefact that Mongoose is here and apparently acting like nothingever happened has me extremely nervous. If we’re wrong abouthim and everything is on the level, you’re going to have tomake Fitzroy understand that Mongoose is a bad risk. If we’renot wrong, then we’ve got trouble and we’re going to needsome help.”“I’ll leave right away,” said Lucas. “I’ll get back as quickly asI can, but meanwhile, watch yourself, okay?”“Count on it,” said Finn.The social pecking order had to be observed, which meantthat the invitation of the Prince of Wales had to be acceptedfirst. However, when the prince’s invitation was replied to, heresponded by saying that he would be most pleased to welcomeSir Percy Blakeney back to his native England officiallyand that he could think of no finer way to mark the occasionthan a shoot at Richmond with a group of boon companions,followed by a housewarming dinner. In this manner, the futureKing George IV of England invited himself and most ofLondon society to Richmond, which made it incumbent uponFinn to crack the whip in Lucas’s absence and personally seeto it that the Blakeney estate would be prepared for the invasion.In a way, it was advantageous for him in that it took up agreat deal of his time and Marguerite, as hostess, also had agreat many preparations to make. As a result, she and Finndid not see very much of each other during the next severaldays. Finn did not complain. She made him feel very ill at ease.They hardly spoke to each other beyond the necessary politeexchanges and the strain of it, as well as her obviously growThe Pimpernel Ploting disenchantment and resentment, was wearing on him.Entertaining the Prince of Wales would naturally mean thatanyone who mattered in the proper social circles would be inattendance, which would give Finn an excellent opportunityto establish the character of Sir Percy Blakeney in preciselythe manner he intended. It would also provide an excellentopportunity to introduce the Scarlet Pimpernel to England.Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had returned from France, along withthe old Duc de Chalis and his sons. On a trip to London to seeBlakeney’s solicitors, Finn had a chance to look up Ffoulkes,who had already been briefed by Dewhurst concerning theirforthcoming plans. Delaney found Andrew Ffoulkes to be anamiable, easygoing young man in his late twenties, tall andslim with dark hair, a clever look about his angular features,and a charming, deferential manner. Ffoulkes, like Dewhurst,was a wealthy young man, although his personal fortune paledinto insignificance when compared to Blakeney’s. Ffoulkes keptan elegantly understated suite of apartments in London and itwas there that they all met to begin planning out the activitiesof their creation, the crusader who would shortly becomeknown throughout all of England as the Scarlet Pimpernel.They began to form their league. Ffoulkes and Dewhurst
would, naturally, be the first and senior members, taking theirdirection from Blakeney. Lucas and Andre would act as theirlinks to Blakeney when he could not contact them himself.Together, the three of them discussed the possibility of recruitingfellow adventurers to their cause.Dewhurst proposed five members, whose personal qualitiesand qualifications were discussed at length; Ffoulkesbrought up four names. They talked about it late into the nightand it was decided that all would make good candidates, providingthat they could take direction without question andnever be informed of the Pimpernel’s true identity.“All right, then,” Finn said, when they had finished for theTime Wars #3night, “I suggest that the two of you begin approaching thosewhom we’ve agreed upon discreetly and sound them out as totheir feelings on this matter. Be very circumspect initially andif you have any doubt as to the degree of their commitment,let the matter go no further. Are we agreed?”“Agreed, “ said Ffoulkes.“Agreed,” said Dewhurst.“Good,” said Finn. “In that case, we shall meet again at Richmond.Confer with de Chalis once again and make certain thathe knows what to do. We’ve made a good beginning, gentlemen.Now let’s start gathering momentum.”Andre felt sorry for Marguerite Blakeney. She couldn’t helpit. Since Lady Blakeney had arrived at Richmond, Andre hadbeen spending a great deal of time with her, both to help keepa distance between her and Finn and to keep track of her sothat she would not inadvertently cause any element of the adjustmentto go awry.Although she knew that Marguerite St. Just had been instrumentalin sending the Marquis de St. Cyr and all his familyto the guillotine, it was difficult to believe that Lady MargueriteBlakeney could have been involved in such a thing.Andre wanted very much to question her about it, but she couldnot bring herself to do so. For one thing, as a servant, it wasnot her place. For another, it was not a topic of conversationthat could be easily brought up. She had no idea how LadyBlakeney would react if she asked her about St. Cyr and shedidn’t want to risk doing anything that would interfere withFinn’s work in the slightest. She had to keep reminding herselfthat she was a soldier and that she could not allow herpersonal feelings to enter into the situation. There was far moreat stake than the welfare of one woman.However, on the other hand, she wished that there was somethingshe could do to ease Lady Blakeney’s burden. She herThe Pimpernel Plotself was far from being unblooded. Andre had killed many men.Sometimes, the cause had been just, but other times, it hadnot been. Marguerite Blakeney had the blood of a family ofFrench aristocrats upon her hands. When compared to theamount of lives that Andre had taken, it was a small thing,indeed. Andre could not bring herself to feel guilt or to bearblame for anything that she had done, although she had a fewregrets. Given that, it was difficult to take the attitude thatMarguerite Blakeney deserved no pity for having sent St. Cyrto the block. She did not know the circumstances attendingthe St. Cyr affair. Perhaps there was a reason, some explanation
for why Marguerite had done what she had done. Certainly,it was hard to believe that she could have acted coldlyin the matter, without remorse, having condemned an entirefamily simply because her society had determined that aristocratswere enemies of France. After all, Marguerite St. Justhad married an aristocrat, albeit an English one, and now possesseda title herself.As the wife of a baronet, Marguerite Blakeney was more thanentitled to act the part, to treat people of a lesser social classas inferiors, to act as though the servants were nothing butpossessions or menial employees, part of the woodwork. ButMarguerite was kind and considerate to all the members ofthe household. Within days after her arrival at the Blakeneyestate, she had won the love and unswerving loyalty of all thestaff, who went out of their way to see to her comfort and tomake her feel welcome. The stablemaster saw to it that shehad the gentlest horse and he was thrilled beyond all measurewhen Marguerite, though vastly inexperienced in such things,came to assist him when one of the mares was throwing acolt. The gamekeeper shyly brought her a baby thrush thathad fallen from its nest and helped her nurse it back to health.Within the week, she had learned the Christian names of allthe servants and she had made it known to them that if thereTime Wars #3was anything they needed regarding their own personal matters,they were free to come to her for help. The servants, sofar as Andre knew, were ignorant of the part that Margueritehad played in St. Cyr’s execution and she was convinced thatif they were told of it, they would not believe it. She had a hardtime believing it herself.Andre, perhaps much more than Finn or Lucas, was in aposition to understand the fervor of the French revolutionaries.Finn and Lucas had traveled throughout all of time andthey had seen the cruelty of the “haves” to the “have-nots,”but Andre had lived it. She had been born a peasant, she hadbeen a knight, and she had served a king, or a prince whowould have been a king. John of Anjou had been a tyrannical,ruthless ruler and his brother Richard had not been much better.When Richard died and John became the king, his ownbarons had rebelled against him, forcing him to sign the MagnaCarta. From what she had learned of the history of France,the treatment of the French peasantry by the aristocrats wasnot much different from the way that the invading Normanshad treated the Saxons in the time from which she came. Leavingaside the right or wrong of it, Andre could understand whythe crowds in Paris cheered each descent of Dr. Guillotin’sdeadly blade.In spite of her effort to maintain a personal detachment,Andre’s heart went out to Marguerite Blakeney. She was astranger in a strange land who did not yet know anyone butthe servants in her own household, with the sole exception ofLord Antony Dewhurst, whom she had met only once. She hadno friends, this woman who had commanded the respect andadmiration of the finest minds of Paris, and she believed thatshe had married a man who no longer loved her. Perhaps,with Percy Blakeney, that had been the case. His love for hermight well have died when he found out about St. Cyr, butBlakeney was dead now and Finn Delaney had taken his place.
The Pimpernel PlotAndre had little doubt about Finn’s feelings. They had foughtside by side together and they knew each other very well. PerhapsAndre even knew Finn better than he knew himself, despitethe fact that he was several lifetimes older than she was.She knew that Finn Delaney was strongly attracted to MargueriteBlakeney. She had seen the way he looked at her whenMarguerite’s face was turned away. At first, she had thought thatit was merely lust and perhaps at first it was. Marguerite Blakeneywas extraordinarily beautiful and Finn Delaney was a rampantspecimen of manhood. Andre had often thought of bedding himherself. However, lust was a thing that was easily satisfied andwhen lust was unrequited, a convenient substitute would oftendo. Finn displayed none of the distemper of a rutting male. Moreover,he displayed no inclination to redirect his urge. They wereclose friends as well as comrades in arms and Finn knew wellthat Andre would be more than willing to give him an outlet forhis tension, but that was not the problemPerhaps Finn did not love Marguerite, at least, not yet. However,he obviously liked her a great deal. He admired and respectedher, and Andre knew that he was having the samedifficulty reconciling Marguerite with the St. Cyr affair thatAndre was having. She knew that playing the part of an uncaring,alienated husband was having its effect on him. He wasfinding the role increasingly more difficult to play and theyhad only been together for a brief length of time. To complicatematters even further, Marguerite perceived a change inher husband, a change beyond the distance that had grownbetween her and Percy Blakeney before Finn stepped in totake his place. She knew that her husband had become a differentman, though she would never know just how literallytrue that was.No amount of research or preparation, even in a case thatwas exhaustively detailed, which this one was not, could everaccount for every slightest detail. Even though Marguerite hadTime Wars #3not been married to Percy Blakeney for very long, she was stillhis wife, prior to becoming his wife, she had been courted byhim for some length of time. It was only inevitable that shewould notice some inconsistencies in the behavior of her husbandand Marguerite was at a loss to account for them.At dinner on the second night of their stay in Richmond, shehad watched with puzzlement as Finn enjoyed three helpingsof roasted chicken and it was not until Finn had finished thelast portion that she remarked upon the fact that he had alwayshated chicken, avoiding it because it gave him hives. Finnhad mentioned the matter to Andre afterwards when he instructedher to stay close to Marguerite and gain her confidence,so that he would be kept informed if he suddenly exhibitedany other uncharacteristic behavior. To which end,Andre was soon able to tell him that Marguerite was mystifiedas to why he had taken to wearing a gold eyeglass, when hehad always ridiculed the affectation previously, and that Margueritewas astonished at his sudden capacity for wine whenhe had always partaken of it in moderation before, claimingthat it “gave him quite a head” whenever he had more thanthree glasses.Andre was able to settle her bewilderment in some degreeafter discussing it with Finn and arriving upon a suitable rationalization.
As one who had “served Sir Percy since her childhood,”she was the logical person for Marguerite to turn towith her questions. Andre had explained to Lady Blakeney that“Sir Percy could be mysteriously changeable.” She said thathe had always been given to caprice and that he sometimesdevised elaborate justifications for his fancies or dislikes. Atone time, she said, he grew bored with eating chicken and soelected to tell everyone it gave him hives, undoubtedly becauseit seemed a better reason to abstain from it than a simplechange of taste. The same thing with the wine, she said. SirPercy had always been a fine judge of good wine and, as such,The Pimpernel Plotextremely hard to please. In order to avoid giving offense, shesaid, he often partook sparingly of an inferior vintage, claimingthat he had no head for it as an excuse for avoiding furtherirritation of his educated palate. As for the eyeglass, she merelyshrugged and advanced the theory that perhaps Sir Percy, anxiousto make a good impression in London society, thought itmade him look “a bit more baronial.”“Sir Percy has always been most concerned about appearances,”she told Lady Blakeney. “But then, of course, you wouldknow that very well, my lady.”“Oh, Andre, surely when we speak in confidence like thisyou can call me Marguerite,” said Lady Blakeney. “After allyou are the only real friend I’ve made thus far in England.”Andre felt a twinge of conscience at her remark and hesitatedbriefly before continuing. “Well, Marguerite,” she said,“I do not think that there is any reason to concern yourselfabout Sir Percy’s sometimes unpredictable behavior. He is notill or anything at all like that. Rather, much like his father, helikes to indulge his whims and passing fancies.”“Ah, well,” said Marguerite, sitting on her bed and gazingdown upon the floor, “I fear that I was such a passing fancy.”“Oh, surely not,” said Andre. “Anyone can see that Sir Percy’smost devoted to you and that—”“As you said yourself, Andre,” said Marguerite, glancing upat her and smiling a bit sadly, “Percy seems most concernedabout appearances. Oh, it’s true, he was always so, a scrupulousfollower of fashion, always attempting to decry affectationwhile he himself was so vulnerable to whatever was instyle, always striving to be the bon vivant and the witty conversationalistwhen his attempts at repartee were so patheticand amusing. You should have seen him at my salon in Pariswith the likes of Beaumarchais and Saint-Pierre, valiantly tryingto hold his own and floundering in water leagues over hishead! None of my friends could understand what I saw in suchTime Wars #3a fool, but he seemed to worship me with a curious intensityof concentrated passion which went straight to my heart. Hewaited on me hand and foot and followed me about like anadoring puppy. But all that is over now. I suppose that I wasjust another of his whims, a passing fancy, a victim of hischangeability. He wanted a pretty, clever wife, someone hecould show off to his friends and, having attained his goal,now he has lost interest in all save those appearances of whichwe speak. I am like that chicken. He has grown bored of thetaste and all that I can do is wait and hope that one day he willcrave it once again. He seems so different now in so many
little ways….” Her voice trailed off as she stared out the windowat the setting sun.“Sir Percy is a very busy man,” said Andre, feebly. “If it appearsthat he has little time for you these days—”“He has no time for me these days,” said Marguerite. “Youare right to defend him, Andre, it is loyal and admirable ofyou, but the truth is that Percy no longer loves me. How elsecan I explain the distance which has grown between us, a distanceeven greater than that which separates his bed frommine? I can think of nothing I have done to deserve such treatmentexcept, perhaps….”“Except?” said Andre in an attempt to prompt her, knowingthat she was on the verge of bringing up St. Cyr.Marguerite shook her head. “I’m tired, Andre, and I wearyyou with my self-pity. Go now and let me sleep. I must be atmy best tomorrow so that I may charm the Prince of Walesand make my husband the envy of his peers for having such awife. Be off to bed, now. It will be a busy day for all of us tomorrow.”Andre said good night to her and left the room. She did notcompletely close the door, but left it open just a crack to listenfor a moment. She heard what she expected, the soft soundsof Marguerite Blakeney weeping.The Pimpernel Plot5The Blakeney estate looked like a scene from an historicalromance. All day, starting shortly after ten in the morning,guests had been arriving for the festivities. Most came in threemain shifts. The earliest arrivals came for the shoot, attired intheir finest sporting clothes and bringing with them their gunsand servants, as well as a full change of clothing for theevening. Others came in time for high tea in the afternoon,following the shoot. The greatest number came for dinner,which was served promptly at seven.The grooms were kept busy by the constant stream ofcoaches and carriages as the cream of London society arrivedwith their liveried footmen. A parade of richly enameledcoaches with gilt trim and coats of arms kept the stablemasterand his charges working throughout the day to see to the comfortand feeding of the horses.By midafternoon, the grounds of the estate were full of strollingcouples, women in silk dresses and velvet robes, their hairelaborately arranged and topped with stylish hats with plumes,which they wore at rakish angles; men in suits of velvet andbrocade and silk, richly embroidered and trimmed with laceand gold. Jewelry flashed in the sun, adorning throats andbosoms; in some secluded wooded spots, a few daring couplessported with no clothes at all, the women biting down on handkerchiefsto avoid crying out and drawing attention to theirscandalous behavior. A large group stood on the upper terrace,looking down into the maze and laughing and shoutingencouragement to those attempting to puzzle out the pathwaysthrough the hedges and those few who knew the secretof the urns kept it to themselves, enjoying the befuddlementof their unenlightened friends.Lord Grenville was in attendance, as was William Pitt.Time Wars #3Edmund Burke was one of the late arrivals, coming in time fordinner. His rival in Parliament, Charles James Fox, followed
closely on his heels. The Prince of Wales was one of the earlierarrivals and, though he shot poorly that day, he enjoyedhimself immensely, taking a liking to the fashionable Sir PercyBlakeney from the start. Sheridan, the playwrightand-politician, arrived shortly after teatime and began to drinkat once. A number of the gentlemen started to take bets to seehow long he would remain standing.The Blakeney staff left nothing to be desired as they workedtirelessly all day. The cooks outdid themselves with bastedchicken, roast pheasant, steak and kidney pies, boiled vegetables,small sandwiches, scones, biscuits and plum puddings,fruits and tarts, and gallons upon gallons of wine and stout.There was an orchestra of strings to accompany the dancingafter dinner and those much too full for such activity retired tothe sitting rooms, where the women and the men congregatedseparately on either side of the ballroom in their respectiveparlors, the women chatting, sipping cordials, and playing cardgames while the men enjoyed their pipes and port.Beneath a haze of smoke, they puffed on their long claychurchwardens and short clay pocket pipes filled with shagand Latakia. Several of the wealthier guests proudly showedoff their meerschaums, which were in great demand, but couldonly be procured by those rich enough to hire skilled carversto create them. Intricately carved from deposits of hydrous silicateof magnesia, a mineral substance formed by nature fromthe remains of prehistoric sea creatures, these exquisite pipeswere treasured by their owners, who were fond of comparingtheir abilities to season them. Several of the gentlemen actuallyhad their servants instructed in the proper art of smokingthem, so that the pipes could be smoked constantly throughoutthe day until, after some two hundred bowlfuls or more,they had colored from an alabaster white to a light rosy pink,The Pimpernel Plotto a golden yellow and finally to a rich, dark brown. Thesepipes were as ostentatious as Sir Percy’s guests and they representedthe wealth, stature, and fancies of the men whosmoked them. Some were artfully carved into the shapes ofstags being attacked by wolves, others bore the aspect of huntersand their dogs, nude women and the heads of 17th-centurynoblemen. Everywhere there was evidence of pampered luxuryand rich indulgence and, in such surroundings, it was hard tobelieve that just across the Channel, there were people starvingin the streets of Paris.Marguerite Blakeney was the instant center of attention, attiredelegantly, yet simply in a dress of ivory-colored silk, whichset off her auburn hair and fair complexion to their best advantage.Her easy manner, her sweet, musical voice, and herdelightful, carefree laugh immediately captivated all the men,and her graceful charm and open friendliness held off the envyof the women who had not been so richly blessed by nature.Everyone admired Sir Percy Blakeney’s clever, witty wife andalthough they found Sir Percy to be a charming, outrageouslystylish, and generally decent fellow, they wondered at the pairingof this bright, elegant French actress and the vague, inane,and dull-witted peacock who was all plumage and no substance.The women smiled knowing smiles and said that Margueritehad married Blakeney for his money, though not oneof them faulted her for making a good match. The men, especiallythe younger ones, paid careful attention to the exaggerated,
incroyable fashion of his Parisian suit, his droll, insouciantmanner, and his fatuous laugh. In Blakeney, they saw aproper model to emulate: a man of studied elegance, goodgrace, and vapid wit; someone socially companionable, yetnon-threatening; rich, yet unambitious; gregarious, yet unprepossessing;politic, yet apolitical. In short, a man perfectlysuited to climb to the highest rung of the social ladder andremain there, comfortably perched.Time Wars #3The highlight of the evening, however, occurred when AndrewFfoulkes arrived, along with Tony Dewhurst, just as dessertwas being served, the timing of their arrival having beenagreed upon between the three of them and prearranged. Theybrought with them, of course, the distinguished Duc de Chalis.There had been, since the beginning of the French Revolution,a steady stream of French emigrés arriving on the shoresof England. It began, for the most part, in 1790, in the monthof February, when the National Assembly introduced a newmilitary constitution allowing for conscription and abolishingthe purchase of commissions. When, in 1791, the LegislativeAssembly replaced the oath of allegiance to the king with anew military oath, the aim being to prevent an army of Royaliststhat would be in opposition to the Revolution, military officers,most of them noblemen, left France in droves. Theywere soon followed by civilian aristocrats, who saw the writingon the wall; it thereafter became quite commonplace tohear the king’s English being mutilated in drawing roomsthroughout all of London and its environs. However, in recentmonths, when the blood of the ci-devant oppressors was neededto fuel revolutionary fervor, the steady stream had become analmost nonexistent trickle and, as a result, the sudden appearanceof the Duc de Chalis was an occasion for surprise andspeculation.A murmuring went through the crowd when de Chalis wasannounced. With all seated at the dining tables, Ffoulkes,Dewhurst and de Chalis at once became the focus of everyone’sattention. Surprising as the French aristocrat’s arrival was, evenmore surprising was his announcement that he had only narrowlyescaped the guillotine, having received the death sentencefrom the Committee of Public Safety, and that he and hissons would have been headless corpses had they not been rescuedby a daring Englishman.“Who was this splendid fellow to whose courage we oweThe Pimpernel Plotthe pleasure of your company, good sir?” the Prince of Walesasked.“I regret to say,” said the elderly de Chalis, in perfect althoughaccented English, “that I cannot tell you his name, YourHighness.”“What?” said the prince. “But see here, my dear fellow, wemust know the name of this brave chap, so that we may singlehim out for the accolades which are justly his. This is no timefor modesty. England needs her heroes. Tell the fellow to comeforth!”“I am afraid that I have been misunderstood, Your Highness,”said the duke. “I did not mean that I will not tell you his name,but that I cannot tell you his name. It is unknown to me. Whatis more, I can no more describe him to you and this fine assemblage
than I can tell you his name. I have learned that Ihave never seen his true face.”At this remark, another wave of murmuring swept throughthe crowd, but it was brought to a quick halt by the Prince ofWales rapping his hand upon the table for silence.“But how is this possible, Monsieur le Duc? How can thisman have rescued you from certain death and you have neverseen his face?”“I have never seen his true face, Your Highness,” replied deChalis. “This Englishman is a consummate actor and a masterof disguise. I know him only by a curious appellation impartedto me by certain individuals who are in league withhim. This man prefers to do his work in secret and it seemsthat he has set himself the task of saving as many innocentlives from the guillotine as possible. Would that I knew hisname and face so I could thank him, for I owe him everything,but all I know of this gallant gentleman is that he calls himself‘the Scarlet Pimpernel.’ ”“Say what?” slurred Sheridan, leaning forward drunkenlyand fixing his bleary eyes upon the duke. “The Scarlet Pimple,100 Time Wars #3did you say?”“Oh, hush, Richard!” said his dinner partner, an aspiringactress well out of her depth in this society, whose knees hadbeen tightly clamped together throughout all of dinner in orderto frustrate Sheridan’s groping fingers. She gave him ashove with her elbow, not very hard, but hard enough, consideringhis state, to topple him from his chair and send him tothe floor, where he remained.A gentleman seated across from him turned to face a friendof his across the table and, indicating the seat vacated by thedramatist, quickly said, “That’s five pounds you owe me.”“The Scarlet Pimpernel,” said Dewhurst, at the same timemotioning the servants to prepare a place for the old Frenchmanat the table. “A small, star-shaped red flower, I believe.”“How very fascinating!” said Lord Grenville. “I say, Dewhurst,can you shed any light upon this situation?”“Only a little, I’m afraid, milord. For the most part, I am asmuch in the dark about this singular gentleman as are the restof you. As some of you may know, Percy and I are old acquaintances,having met abroad and spent much pleasurable timetogether on numerous occasions. Percy was the proud ownerof an absolutely splendid yacht, a beauty of a schooner calledthe Day Dream. We had sojourned in the Bay of Biscay aboardthat lovely craft and I had determined that I had to have her.”“The Pimpernel, Dewhurst!” said the Prince of Wales. “Whatof this Scarlet Pimpernel?”“I’m getting to that, Your Highness,” Dewhurst said, beginningto saunter round the table slowly, enjoying his role immensely.He came to the spot where Sheridan had fallen,stepped over him and paused a moment, then picked up theplaywright’s glass, which was still three-quarters full. “Faithand I believe ole Richard’s finished with this glass. Well, wastenot, want not.” He took a sip, then glanced down at the floor.“I say, Burke, I’ve heard that Sheridan could really hold theThe Pimpernel Plotfloor in Parliament and now I see that he’s adept at holdingthe floor here, as well.”
This sally was greeted with uproarious laughter and EdmundBurke, especially, laughed heartily, pounding on the table andshouting, “Well said, well said!”“Tony, stop with this nonsense and get on with it!” said WilliamPitt. “What does Percy’s boat have to do with this mysteriousScarlet Pimpernel?”“A great deal, Bill, a very great deal,” said Dewhurst, “and Imight add that it is my boat, now.”“What?” said Marguerite. “Percy, you sold the Day Dream toTony Dewhurst?”“Odd’s life, m’dear,” said Finn, “what do I need with such aboat in London? Sail her upon the Thames? Better employ aracing horse to pull a plough, I say.”“Yes, well, Percy sold the Day Dream to me,” Dewhurst wenton, “and I might add that he was very generous, doubtlessanxious to stop my constant pestering of him on that account.Well, gentlemen and ladies, much as I am loath to admit it, Iam not much of a sailor, I’m afraid. In fact, I’m not a sailor atall, being quite content to leave such matters in the very capablehands of the Day Dream’s Captain Briggs, who hadagreed, with Percy’s urging, to stay on with his entire crew.However, I suddenly found myself in the situation of a childwhose eyes were bigger than his mouth, for when I sat downwith Briggs and became acquainted with the amount neededfor the upkeep of the Day Dream, I was somewhat taken aback.I mean, what do I know of such things as hauling, painting,scraping, caulking, and so on? Though I am not known forbeing frugal, I could see that I had acquired a most expensivetoy. Therefore, when Briggs informed me that he had beenapproached by an agent acting for some gentleman with regardto hiring the Day Dream for the purpose of bringing somegoods over from France, I was quite agreeable. After all, a toy102 Time Wars #3that pays for its own upkeep is considerably more attractivethan one which slowly bleeds its owner dry.” He chuckled. “AsFfoulkes here, an experienced sailor, told me, a boat is nothingmore than a hole in the water into which money is poured.”There was some laughter at this, but clearly, the audiencewas growing impatient to hear about this Scarlet Pimpernel.“And so I agreed to hire out the Day Dream, so long as I wasnot using her,” said Dewhurst. “Well, imagine my surprisewhen I discovered that the goods brought over from Francewere the Duc de Chalis and his family! Briggs passed on anote to me, signed with this star-shaped flower, begging me,as a man of some position, to use my influence to help the Ducde Chalis and his sons begin anew in England and to pardonthe slight deception in the name of freedom and humanity!What is more, I have learned that the moment that our newarrivals here set foot on English soil, a note, signed with thatvery star-shaped flower, had been delivered to CitizenFouquier-Tinville, the public prosecutor, informing him thatthe guillotine had been cheated of three victims and that thiswas only the beginning!”There was spontaneous applause at this and it took sometime for the tumult to die down before Dewhurst could continue.“Well, needless to say, my friends, not only was I astoundedat the daring of this adventurer who is unknown to me, but Iwas humbled by his dedication to the principles that we all, asEnglishmen, hold to be so dear. This Scarlet Pimpernel, as he
calls himself, is a sterling example to us all. I know not who heis, nor do I know why he has chosen to cloak himself in secrecy,but I do know this: I am proud that, in some small measure,I was able to assist him. I have instructed Briggs that inthe event he should be approached once more in a similarregard, he is to return in full the fee paid for the hiring of theDay Dream and make the boat available at any time for thisThe Pimpernel PlotScarlet Pimpernel, to use as he sees fit, with my most sincerecompliments, for further daring rescues! Ffoulkes, here, hasconsented to join me in doing everything in my power to makethose rescued by this gallant at home in England and I urgeall of you here this night to join me in a toast to this courageousman and to lend him your support! Gentlemen,” he said,raising his glass high, “I give you the Scarlet Pimpernel!”They all rose as one, with their glasses held aloft, and echoedthe toast.“The Scarlet Pimpernel!”God damn, thought Finn. Too bad we can’t recruit this characterinto the corps. He’d be a natural. They all drank the toastand sat back down to engage in animated discussion and interrogationof the Duc de Chalis. The remainder of the eveningwas taken up with speculation concerning the Scarlet Pimpernel.Dewhurst and de Chalis could not have played theirroles any better. The unknown Englishman had instantly capturedeveryone’s imagination.After dinner, many of the guests went dancing in the ballroom,but a large group of gentlemen congregated in the parlor,there to smoke their pipes and sample the bottled fruit ofBlakeney’s cellar while they discussed what went on acrossthe Channel and, in particular, the involvement of the unknownEnglishman in the rescue of French aristocrats.Edmund Burke took advantage of the situation to launchinto a heady polemic concerning his opinions on the revolt inFrance. Finn lit up his pipe and sidled up to Dewhurst speakingnot quite quietly enough to avoid being overheard.“What’s he on about, I wonder?” he said, in a somewhat boredtone.Sheridan, who had regained consciousness and, thoughunsteady on his feet, seemed intent on draining Blakeney’scellar dry, heard him and lurched over to them.“He’s on about the Revolution once again,” he said unevenly.104 Time Wars #3“I’ve heard this dreary song before in Parliament. Though heseems to have committed it to memory, it doesn’t get muchbetter with repeat performances.”Burke, meanwhile, was gaining steam in his diatribe againstthe leaders of the Republic.“It is right that these men should hide their heads,” he said,vehemently. “It is right that they should bear their part in theruin which their counsel has brought on their sovereign andtheir country. They have seen the medicine of the state corruptedinto its poison! They have seen the French rebel againsta mild and lawful monarch! Their resistance was made to concession;their revolt from protection; their blow aimed at ahand holding out graces, favors, and immunities!”Sheridan belched loudly and Burke shot him a venomouslook.
“I say, Burke,” said Finn, “that was a most torrential outburst.I am truly awed by the fervor of your oratory. Wouldthat I could speak with such a passion. Is there, then, no hopefor France at all?”“None, if they continue on their present course,” said Burke,grasping his lapels and puffing himself up. “People will notlook forward to posterity who never look backward to theirancestors.”“True, true,” said Finn, putting on a thoughtful look. “If weEnglish look backward to our ancestors, we will find themrunning about with their arses hanging out and painted blue.Faith and we’ve come a long way since then, eh, what? Whatwith such humble beginnings, think what posterity lies aheadfor us!”For a moment, there was total silence as everyone stared athim uncertainly. Burke looked totally bewildered, but a smilebegan to twitch at the corner of Sheridan’s mouth and the playwrighthid it with his hand.“France, my dear Blakeney,” Burke said, in an effort to getThe Pimpernel Plotthings back on track, “has bought poverty by crime. You’vejust returned from Paris, surely you must agree that Francehas not sacrificed her virtue to her interest, but rather she hasabandoned her interest that she might prostitute her virtue.”“Odd’s life, that may well be,” said Finn. “I’ve had my estatein Rouen seized for the purposes of securing needed revenuefor the new French government. A bad business for me, I’mafraid, though an advantageous one for them. It might well bein France’s interest to prostitute her virtue if she makes suchgains by it. I’ve known not a few demimondaines who haverebuilt their crumbling virtue in a like manner.”Sheridan started coughing, but Burke seemed totally at sea.He gazed at Finn in complete astonishment.“As for this Pimpernel fellow whom everyone seems so concernedabout,” Finn continued blithely, “I cannot flaw him forhis boldness or idealism, but given all the bloodletting beingdone across the water, rescuing one or two aristocrats wouldseem like pissing in the wind, no? Still, I do wish the fellowwell and I only hope that the French navy does not learn ofDewhurst’s part in all of this, else they might well try to sinkhis newly purchased boat. Though, in truth, I doubt that theyhave any craft that would be capable of catching her.”“As for that,” said Dewhurst, with a grin, “if the French didsink the Day Dream, it would relieve me of the expense ofmaintaining her! However, you’re quite right, Percy, there is acertain amount of risk in lending aid to this Scarlet Pimpernel.Yet, any risk I may incur is nothing compared to the risks thathe must take. I admit that there might be some risk for me,but what is life without an element of risk? Nothing but mereexistence. If you ask me, gentlemen, this Pimpernel fellow is atrue sportsman! I can think of nothing quite so game as playingleapfrog with the French and thumbing your nose atDanton, Robespierre, and the entire bunch of them!”“There is much more than sport involved in this affair, young106 Time Wars #3Dewhurst,” Burke said, stiffly. “We cannot afford to merelythumb our noses at the French. This Revolution of theirs is aplague and the precautions of the most severe quarantine ought
to be established against it!”“Begad, that was well said,” said Finn. “You know, Burke,someone told me tonight that when you rise to speak in Parliament,your fellow members are moved to go out to dinner. Ican well see why, since such passionate invective must do agreat deal to stimulate the juices! It is fortunate for us, gentlemen,that we’ve already eaten. As it is, such fine speech oughtto do great wonders for our digestion.”There were chuckles at Finn’s remarks, though they werequickly stifled. Burke had gone red in the face, but Finn had alook of such guileless stupidity upon his face that the politiciancould think of no way to reply. Out of the corner of hiseye, Finn could see that Sheridan was biting on his finger inan effort to keep from laughing. Later on, the playwright drewhim to one side, in a corner somewhat removed from all thegeneral discussion.“See here, Blakeney,” Sheridan said, speaking thickly andswaying from side to side, “I have not yet quite decided whatto make of you. You seem to be a male Mrs. Malaprop at times,and yet I see a bit of Swift in you, I think. You seem to be laughingup your sleeve.”Finn affected a look of puzzlement. “I’m not at all sure whatyou mean, old fellow. Truthfully, I’d never laugh at any guestsof mine, though I must admit that your rendition of the dyingswan at dinner was a bit amusing. I’m afraid that I don’t getyour meaning.”Sheridan stared at him for a moment. “I think you doBlakeney. Yes, I think you do. I don’t know if you pricked Burkeon purpose or if it was just a happy circumstance of all yourrambling babble, but you’ve roused my curiosity. Tell me, whatis your real feeling concerning the revolt in France and thisThe Pimpernel PlotScarlet Pimple or whatever his name is?”“My real feeling?” Finn said, raising his eyebrows. “Begad,my real feeling is that I’m glad to be out of it! The climate inParis is decidedly unhealthy at this time of year. I’m happythat de Chalis has seen fit to seek a change of weather. Doubtlesshe will live longer. As for any others who choose to followhis example, I can only wish them bon voyage and hope thatthey encounter no difficulties in making their travel plans.”“Indeed,” said Sheridan. “And what of this Pimpernel chap?”“Well, I’m sure I don’t know what to think of him,” said Finn.“He seems like quite a bold and dashing fellow, destined to beall the rage of London. He’s already won the hearts of Ffoulkesand Dewhurst and, I’ll wager, of most of the women here tonight.What do you think of him, Sheridan?”“I think he’s a monumental fool who’ll get his head choppedoff,” said Sheridan, adding a belch for punctuation. “But I mustadmit that I admire his pluck.”“Perhaps you’ll write a play about him,” Finn said.“Not I,” said Sheridan. “His tale is the stuff of romantic fictionfor women to sigh over in their drawing rooms. Besides,he has only just begun his mad career and chances are it willbe cut short by the public prosecutor’s blade.”“That would be a pity,” Finn said.“Aye, it would. I wouldn’t even have enough material for myfirst act.”By midnight, the guests had all departed. Marguerite wentup to bed, exhausted. Ffoulkes and Dewhurst were the last to
leave, along with old de Chalis, who quietly told Finn that ifthere was ever anything that he could do for him, he had butto ask. When they had gone, one of the servants came up toFinn and handed him an envelope.“What’s this?” said Finn.“One of the guests told me to give this to you after everyone108 Time Wars #3had gone, milord,” the servant said.Finn tensed. “Who was it?”“I don’t know, milord. A gentleman.”“What did he look like?”The young man shrugged. “He looked like a gentleman,milord.”Finn frowned. “Never mind. That will do. Go on about yourduties.”He opened up the note. It was short and to the point. It said,“The maze, at one o’clock.” It was unsigned, but Finn knewwho it was from.The house seemed strangely empty now that all the guestshad left. As Finn walked back into the reception hall, the heelsof his shoes made sharp echoing sounds that filled the spaciousroom, which only a short while ago resounded withlaughter, boisterous conversation, and violin music. It was alovely way to live, Finn thought. It might be very pleasant tospend the next several years as Sir Percy Blakeney, if it wasn’tfor the fact that his lifespan could be drastically curtailed bysome error he had yet to make.There was still some time before one o’clock. Finn quicklywent up to his rooms and changed out of his elegant,cream-colored suit, dressing in black riding clothes and boots,the better to blend in with the darkness. Just to be on the safeside he tucked a short dagger into his belt and took along apolished ebony sword cane with a heavy, solid silver head.It was chilly and a mist had settled on the grounds. His bootsmade slight crunching sounds upon the gravel path as hewalked around to the side of the house, his crackling steps apercussive counterpoint to the chirping of the crickets. Hestepped off the path and onto the grass, heading for the elaboratelyarranged rows of perfectly trimmed hedges, eight feethigh and four feet thick. There was no evidence of any otherhuman presence about save for himself.The Pimpernel PlotIt occurred to him that the setting was perfectly suited for atrap. In the darkness, with the tall hedges all around him, itwould be virtually impossible to see anything. Finn had goodnight vision, but the visibility was limited as a result of thedarkness and the mist. The thought that somewhere nearbywould-be a man trained at least as well as he was made himmove slowly and cautiously as he entered the maze. Lucashad shown him how the placement of the urns indicated whichturn to take. The benches were positioned so that the urnscould only be seen from the correct paths, the view of thembeing otherwise blocked by the benches. Obviously, Mongooseknew this trick as well, else why choose the maze for a meetingplace?Moving with stealth, Finn made his way to the grassy squareat the center of the maze. He could make out the ghostly whitebenches placed around the perimeter of the square, but not
much else. He wished he had been issued night glasses, butthe fact that he lacked such equipment did not mean that Mongoosewould be equally at a disadvantage. Still, there was nothingelse to do but sit down upon a bench and wait until Mongoosemade his move. Finn waited nervously in the darkness,listening to the chirping of the crickets. At a little after oneo’clock, he heard a faint sound of movement close by and thena familiar voice called out, softly, “Delaney?”“I’m right here,” he said. “What’s the matter, can’t you seeme?”There was a chuckle that seemed to come from only a fewyards away, but Finn could not accurately gauge the directionor the distance.“Nice try, Delaney, but I happen to know that you weren’tissued night glasses. The only thing they gave you was a hyporing, which just goes to show you how paranoid they’regetting.”“Where are you?”110 Time Wars #3“Nearby,” Mongoose replied. He chuckled once more.“Where’s Priest? I didn’t see him at the party.”“He’s around,” Finn lied. “I didn’t see you, either. But then,the way you keep changing your appearance, I wouldn’t haverecognized you anyway. What’s your face look like these days?The last time I saw you, it had been rearranged a bit.”The brief silence told Finn that he had scored a hit with hisreference to the torture that had disfigured Mongoose.“Well, we both look a bit different these days, don’t we?”Mongoose said. Finn realized that he was moving as he spoke.He seemed to be just outside the center of the maze now, inone of the paths between the hedgerows. Walking softly, Finnmoved in the direction of his voice. “I see you’ve got de laCroix with you,” Mongoose continued. “Oh, yes, that’s rightit’s Private Cross now, isn’t it? Well, it appears to be quite areunion, all of us back together once again.”“It must be kismet,” Finn said. “After the way you bungledyour last mission, I thought they’d never let you near a fieldassignment again. Yet here you are. What a surprise.” Finnturned down another pathway, his eyes straining to penetratethe mist and darkness. “I heard you were busted down to deskjockey. Seems to me you were pretty lucky to get even that.”“I wasn’t meant to be a glorified clerk, Delaney,” Mongoosesaid, with an edge to his voice. “Having me sitting behind aconsole was a sinful waste of talent and ability.”“Your talent and ability almost got you killed last time,” saidFinn, moving closer. “If it hadn’t been for us, Adrian Taylorwould have vivisected you.”“Perhaps,” said Mongoose. “Who’s to say how it might haveturned out without your interference? You may have saved mylife, in which case I suppose I should be grateful, but you alsoruined my career. I realize that the one shouldn’t cancel outthe other, but somehow it seems to. You’ll pardon me if I don’tseem properly appreciative.”The Pimpernel Plot“Why don’t we cut out this kids’ game, Mongoose?” Finnsaid. “Come out and show yourself.”“I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to do that just yet,” Mongoosesaid. “You see, we really have no basis for trust in this relationship.
I know you’ve sent Priest to see Fitzroy. I just camefrom there. They didn’t see me, of course, but I saw them. Thefunny thing is, I really was your contact. We could have workedtogether, had you chosen to, but Fitzroy will obviously haveme checked out. To tell the truth, I expected it. He’s served hispurpose, however. It really doesn’t matter. The only thing youhave accomplished is adding more spice to the game.”Slowly, noiselessly, Finn slid the sword blade out of the cane.Mongoose sounded very close now, just on the opposite sideof the hedge, separated from him by about four feet of bush.“It was really very boring in evaluations,” Mongoose said. “Itwas a dead end for me. There was no challenge. This way—”Finn plunged the sword deeply through the hedge, followingit with the length of his entire arm. He heard Mongoosegasp.“Very good, Delaney! But not good enough.”Finn heard the sound of running footsteps. Cursing, he pulledthe sword back out of the hedge and took off at a sprint, brushinghis hand against the hedge as he ran to feel for the nextgap in the bushes. He reached it, plunged through, made aquick right turn and ran down the path after Mongoose, hissword held out before him. Mongoose was running for the exitand there was only one way to get out of the maze beyondwhich the grounds were open for several hundred yards.Finn came to a bench, noticed the placement of the urn, andturned down the path to the left. A right turn, another left …andhe came to a dead end, running right into a leafy wall blockingoff the pathway. Startled, he was confused for a momentuntil he realized that Mongoose must have moved the urns ashe entered the maze behind him. He ran back the way he came,112 Time Wars #3this time taking the “wrong” turns. He came to a dead endagain.“Son of a bitch!” he swore. Mongoose had only moved someof the urns. But which ones had he moved? It took him almosta half an hour to find the exit. By that time, Mongoose waslong gone. Finn stood at the entrance to the maze, breathinghard. Except for the sounds of the crickets and his own laboredbreathing, he couldn’t hear a thing.Thick fog obscured the grounds. He felt the tip of the blade.It was wet with blood.The Pimpernel Plot6At breakfast the following morning, one of the servants camein with a message from the head gardener, warning Sir Percyand Lady Marguerite against going walking in the maze thatmorning. It seemed that one of the guests had decided to playa prank the previous night and had moved a number of theurns. The gardener promised that he would have it all setstraight by the afternoon.“Wouldn’t surprise me if it was that Sheridan chap,” saidFinn. “He seemed quite exuberant last night. Well, then, mydear,” he said in a casual manner, “what did you think of thecream of London society?”“I am more concerned as to what they thought of me,” Margueritereplied, evasively. “I hope, for your sake, that I made afavorable impression last night.”“To be sure, you simply bowled them over,” Finn said. “No
doubt, you’ll be receiving a great many invitations now andI’ll be forced to follow you from ball to ball like an attendant.”“As it happens, I’ve already been invited to a tea at LadyBollingbrook’s,” said Marguerite. “It’s for ladies only, Percy, soyou will be spared the agony of having to attend. That is, if youhave no objection to my going?”“Object? Begad, why should 1? You must go, of course. Otherwise,Lady What’s-her-name might take offense. When isthis tea to take place?”“This afternoon.”“Ah, well, you see? It works out perfectly. I have certain businessmatters that require my attention today and I was afraidthat you would be left with nothing at all to do other than stayingat Richmond and wallowing in boredom. Far better foryou to go to this Lady Something-or-other’s and cultivate somefriendships.”114 Time Wars #3“Then I shall go,” said Marguerite, quietly. “I wouldn’t wantto interfere with any of your plans.”“Well now, if you’re having tea in London, you can’t possiblybe in my way then, can you?” Finn said jauntily. “For that matter,my being absent will enable you to enjoy yourself withouthaving to suffer my sad attempts at witty conversation. It worksout well for all concerned.”“Yes, I suppose it does,” said Marguerite, without looking athim.The arrival of Lucas forestalled any further conversation,much to Finn’s relief. Lucas said that he had brought an urgentmessage from Percy’s solicitors in London and they withdrew,leaving Lady Blakeney to finish eating breakfast alone.Andre was summoned and the three friends went into one ofthe smaller parlors. They closed and locked the doors afterthemselves.“I’m really beginning to feel terrible about the way I’m forcedto treat that lady,” Finn said.Lucas glanced at him sharply. “You start caring about her,Finn, and it’s going to get very rough on you,” he said. “Remember,she sent a whole family to the guillotine. You’re notgetting involved with her, are you?”Andre watched Finn closely, but said nothing.“No, of course not,” Finn said. “Only …well, forget it Whathappened with Fitzroy?”Lucas picked up a glass from a silver tray upon the tableand poured himself some port from the decanter. He lookedtired.“I didn’t get much rest,” he said. “I signaled Fitzroy as soonas I got to Calais and he came out to meet me. He wanted toknow why I didn’t go through channels and use our contactover here.” He smiled, wryly. “I told him. Fitzroy had neverheard of Mongoose. Our contact in England is supposed to bean Observer named Captain Jack Carnehan. Carnehan’s deThe Pimpernel Plotscription matches that of the groom who gave me that notefrom Mongoose, the same groom whom no one else aroundhere seems to have seen,” he added.“How did Major Fitzroy react?” said Andre.“He didn’t take it very well,” said Lucas. “He had to check itout, of course. He clocked out ahead and made a routine inquiry
and, not surprisingly, discovered that there is no officerin the Observer Corps named Jack Carnehan. At that point, heimmediately contacted the TIA, thinking that they were involvedin this mission and that he hadn’t been informed. Thenew director, Allendale, assured him that such was not thecase and insisted that we had made a mistake. When Fitzroytold him about the ersatz Capt. Carnehan, Allendale ran a checkon Mongoose. The records had him listed as inactive, on medicalleave. Fitzroy insisted that Allendale check in with Darrow,as well as agent Cobra. Cobra was unavailable for some reason,but Allendale set up a secure-line conference with Darrow,just to mollify Fitzroy. Darrow told him that Mongoose hadbeen given medical leave following his last mission in the field,but that he had returned to active duty shortly thereafter, whichso far coincides with what we already know. If Mongoose hadbeen given medical leave again, said Darrow, it happened afterhis resignation and he wasn’t aware of the circumstances.“Allendale wanted to know why Mongoose had been removedfrom the field duty roster. Darrow was a bit stiff aboutthat, but he did say that it was all a matter of record and hewas surprised that Allendale had to ask. The reason he had toask, as it turned out, is that Mongoose had the records altered.He managed to transfer himself out of evaluations and thenplace himself on medical leave, so that he would not be missed.Then—get this—he forged departure tags for himself underthe name of Lieutenant Vasily Rurik. The real Lt. Rurik is onmedical leave from the Observers, recovering from woundssustained on duty during an arbitration action in the 20th cen116 Time Wars #3tury. Mongoose had access to his records when he was in evaluations.He assumed Rurik’s identity, requisitioned a chronoplatefor the purpose of Observer duty in the War of the First Coalition,clocked out, and promptly disappeared.”Finn nodded. “He bypassed the tracer functions on the plate,showed up here, and reported to Fitzroy as Carnehan. Fitzroygave him a full briefing on the mission status, naturally. Theguy’s got nerve, I’ll hand him that. He showed up last night.”“You saw him?” Lucas said.“Not exactly. I had a note delivered to me, telling me to meethim in the maze at one o’clock.”“Why didn’t you tell me?” Andre interrupted.“Because you went up to attend Marguerite and that waswhere I wanted you. For all I knew, the note was just a ruse toget me out of the house. I wish I had told you, but it’s too lateto cry about that now. I never saw Mongoose. We spoke, buthe kept out of sight. I managed to get close enough to stickhim through the hedge with a sword cane, but I think I onlygrazed him. He ran and I tried to follow, but he’d switched allthe urns around and by the time I found my way out of thatblasted maze, he was long gone. I should have rememberedthe sequence of the turns,” he said to Lucas.“You should have told me,” Andre said, angrily. “I could havewaited for him outside the maze. You let him escape, just becauseyou didn’t trust me enough to—”“I’m sure that isn’t true,” said Lucas. “Still, that wasn’t verysmart, Finn. Suppose we were wrong about him and he wason the level?”Finn shook his head. “He told me that he wasn’t. Besides, ifhe was on the level, why didn’t he show himself? No, when he
saw that I wasn’t buying his story, he made it clear that he wasacting on his own. He knew I sent you to Fitzroy. He said hesaw you with him in Paris.”“What’s he want?” said Lucas. “Did he say anything at allThe Pimpernel Plotabout why he did it?”“From what little he did say,” Finn replied, “it’s my impressionthat this is some sort of last fling for him. He knew he hadreached a dead end in evaluations and rather than go crazysitting behind a desk all day, he decided to go crazy on theMinus Side.” Finn sighed. “I don’t know what the hell he wants.He’s out to prove something, I don’t know.”Lucas shook his head. “If he really thinks he can get awaywith what he’s done, he’s crazier than I thought. In any case,we’ve got specific orders as far as he’s concerned. We’re tokeep our hands off him unless he does something that activelyendangers the adjustment. Don’t ask me how we’re supposedto define that, I haven’t the faintest idea. Allendale is sendinga TIA team back to bring him in. He wants him alive, both tomake an example of him and to find out how he managed toscrew around with the records. Darrow’s in for it, too, becausehe was soft on him and didn’t bust him out of the agency.”“So much for not having the spooks underfoot,” said Delaney.“I knew this mission was too good to be true. It was too easy.”“So far, at least,” said Lucas. “It’s about to get a bit moredifficult. Fitzroy’s got orders for us. It’s time for the ScarletPimpernel to make a trip to Paris. Think of something to tellMarguerite and get hold of Ffoulkes and Dewhurst. We haveto leave this evening.”“Who’s the target?” Finn said.“The Marquis de Leforte,” said Lucas. “Not a very nice man,by all accounts. Treated the peasants as if they were less thananimals, so consequently they’d like very much to kill him nowthat he’s vulnerable.”“How’s Blakeney supposed to find him?” Andre said.“That shouldn’t be too difficult,” said Lucas. “Leforte’s inthe Bastille. He’s already been tried and condemned to death.”He smiled, mirthlessly. “All we have to do is get him out.”“Get him out of the Bastille?” Finn said. “How?”118 Time Wars #3“That’s what I asked Fitzroy,” said Lucas. “His answer was,‘I’m sure you’ll think of something. After all, Blakeney did.’”It was four o’clock in the morning and Finn and Lucas stoodin the street, looking up at the north tower of the Bastille. Andre,under protest, had stayed behind with Marguerite. She hadn’tliked it, but they had made her understand that her job wasjust as important as theirs; perhaps more so. Someone had towatch Marguerite while they were gone, to make certain thatMongoose didn’t try anything with regard to her. They had noidea what he intended to do and they couldn’t afford to takeany chances.They had a plan of the Bastille, thanks to Fitzroy, and theyknew where the Marquis de Leforte was being held. He wasimprisoned in the north tower, in cell number 106. But knowingwhere he was and getting him out were two very differentthings. One was a fait accompli, the other seemed impossible.Dewhurst was waiting for them on board the Day Dream,which lay at anchor off Boulogne-sur-Mer. Ffoulkes was in
that seaside town, about twenty miles from Calais, awaitingtheir arrival. Several newly recruited members of the Leagueof the Scarlet Pimpernel were in a small apartment in Parisawaiting instructions from their leader. Everything was in astate of readiness. Now all they needed was a plan.“I’m open to suggestions,” Finn said, wryly. “We’ve got exactlyeight hours before Leforte’s due to be executed. You gotany ideas?”“Yeah,” said Lucas. “I say we go find Fitzroy and threaten todisembowel him unless he gets us some equipment. With theright stuff, we could walk right in there and take him out.”“A couple of AR-107’s would be real nice,” said Finn“I was thinking along somewhat less lethal lines,” said Lucas.“Like, some nose filters and a few gas grenades, real basicstuff. Just put everyone in there to sleep, Leforte included, andThe Pimpernel Plotwalk in, open up his cell and carry the poor bastard out.”“Fitzroy won’t play, huh?”Lucas took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “No, he won’tplay. According to history, at least so far as TIA intelligencehas determined, Blakeney got him out.”“I don’t suppose Blakeney had any gas grenades,” said Finn.“Did the TIA tell us how he did it?”“Unfortunately, there’s no record of that,” said Lucas. “Allthey were able to learn, according to Fitzroy, is that Lefortewas captured trying to sneak out of Paris dressed as an oldwoman, thrown in the Bastille, tried, condemned, but neverexecuted. The Scarlet Pimpernel took credit for his escape, bysending one of those notes of his to the public prosecutor. Itwould’ve been nice if they could have clocked back to see howit was done, but Blakeney’s already dead. However it was done,we’re going to have to be the ones to do it.”“Sure would be nice if we could hop on a plate and jumpahead a few hours so we could see how we did it,” Finn said.“But then, we’d have to do it first before we could see how itwas done. Ain’t temporal physics wonderful?”“It’s times like these that make me wish I’d kept my lab job,”Lucas said.“It’s times like these that make me wish I’d stayed in theregular army,” Finn said. “But then, if I had, I’d probably bedead by now. So much for the old ‘what ifs.’ We’d better comeup with something fast, partner.”“I’m agreeable,” said Lucas. “What did you have in mind?”“Beating the living daylights out of Fitzroy, stealing his plate,knocking out the tracer circuits, and going to Barbados.”“We’ll save that as a last resort, okay?” Lucas said. “Comeon, we’ve been in tougher spots than this. Let’s work it out.”“Okay. Let’s take it one step at a time. What are the odds ofour getting in there and taking Leforte out between now andsunrise?”120 Time Wars #3“Not very good,” said Lucas. “These new citizens have becomevery conscious of their new positions. If anyone’s gotany business being in there, they’re known to the guards. It’slike an ‘old boy’ network. It’s doubtful that we could bluff ourway in and if we tried to force our way in without the rightequipment, we’d have a whole garrison down on us before wegot halfway up the tower.”
“Okay, so forget storming the Bastille,” said Finn. “Thatleaves us with the option of trying to take him when they bringhim out.”“Which should be anytime between ten o’clock and noontomorrow, when he’s scheduled to be executed,” Lucas said.“They’ll bring him down into the courtyard in the prison, puthim in a tumbrel, and take him out under guard along themost direct route to the Place de la Revolution. The entire routeshould be packed with spectators, since Leforte is so well loved.That means that the tumbrel won’t be going very fast.”Finn nodded. “I’d guess a little faster than a walking pace,just to give everyone a chance to spit at the marquis. If we’regoing to put the snatch on him, it’ll have to be then, somewherebetween the Place de la Revolution and here.”Lucas pursed his lips thoughtfully. “The crowd’s going to bethe main problem,” he said. “We won’t be able to seize controlof the cart and drive him away, because we’ll never make itthrough the crowd. If we try to pull him out of the tumbrel,they’ll tear us to pieces before we can go several yards.”“Scratch that idea,” Finn said. “That leaves us the Place dela Revolution. The crowd’s going to be thicker there than anywhereelse along the route.”“That could work for us,” said Lucas. “They’ll be at a feverpitch by the time Leforte gets there. What we need is masshysteria, confusion. Something to drive them crazy enough sothat they’ll be running in all directions. If we can create somekind of a diversion in the square, we might be able to grabThe Pimpernel PlotLeforte and get lost in the crowd. All we need to do is to gethim out of that square. Then we can take him to the safehouse,knock him out with that trick ring of yours, and have Fitzroyclock us to Boulogne-sur-Mer. But we’ll need something todisguise Leforte until we can get him out of the square.”“No big deal,” said Finn. “We can throw a shawl and a cloakover him. Now all we need to do is figure out some sort of adiversion. How about a fire?”“It would be risky,” Lucas said. “We don’t want to get anyonekilled inadvertently.”“We can take steps to minimize that possibility,” said Finn.“Don’t forget, we’ve got some extra manpower. We’ve gotleague members Barrett, Moore, Smythe-Peters and the Byrnebrothers standing by. All we have to do is pick a likely building,get one of the boys to start a small fire that’ll make a lot ofsmoke, then torch the place but good. We’ll need a healthyblaze to steal the show. There’s enough time to pick a site, getinstructions to the boys, and start them off making Molotovcocktails. It should do the trick.”“I hope so,” Lucas said. “Well, I can’t think of a better idea atthe moment, anyway. Come on, let’s pick our spot.”At ten-thirty in the morning, Leforte’s jailors opened up hiscell and led the stunned marquis downstairs to the courtyardof the Bastille. The aristocrat had not slept at all that night. Hespent what he believed to be his last night on earth praying. Aman who had never paid more than lip service to religionLeforte found faith in the last hours of his life. He had no hope,none whatsoever. He knew only too well how much the peoplehated him and how justified that hate was, he knew that hecould expect no mercy. He had known it when they had arrestedhim, just as he thought that he was going to make good
his escape. Ironically, on the day before he was scheduled todie, he had learned that the man who was responsible for hisarrest would soon be following him up the steps leading to the122 Time Wars #3guillotine. One of the guards had told him that Sergeant Bibothad also been thrown into a cell in the north tower, for allowingthe Duc de Chalis to escape. The guard, a bloodthirsty oldpeasant, had found the irony amusing, but the fact that Bibotwas to die brought little comfort to Leforte. Instead of dwellingon the thought that the man who had brought him to thisfate would share it, Leforte thought about de Chalis, an oldman who had won his freedom. It seemed monstrously unfair.De Chalis was in the twilight of his years; he could not havelong to live. Leforte was thirty-seven and in the prime of life.He had been very much afraid, but now the fear had spentitself. Leforte felt numb. He found that singularly puzzling.Over and over, he kept thinking to himself, “I’m going to die.Why don’t I feel anything?”They put him in the tumbrel, a crude, two-wheeled woodencart, and a small escort of soldiers of the Republic formed upon either side. The driver, who reeked of garlic, looked at himonly once, dispassionately spat upon his shirt, then turned hisback on him and flapped the reins up and down several timesto get the horses moving. The tumbrel moved forward with ajerk, going through the gate with Leforte as its sole piece ofhuman cargo. The marquis took a deep and shuddering breath,resolving that he would not give the peasants the satisfactionof seeing him cower in fear. In point of fact, he was not afraid.He had accepted death with a deep despondency and he hadrun the gamut of all possible emotions. There was nothingleft.I will go to my death with dignity, he thought. To the veryend, I will show this rabble that I am better than they are.The street was lined with people. He was surprised to seehow many of them had turned out to see him off. The noisewas deafening. They laughed, they screamed, they jeered andrushed the tumbrel, trying to grab a piece of his clothing, totouch him, strike him, spit upon him, or throw garbage at him.The Pimpernel PlotThey followed the tumbrel as it proceeded down the streettoward the Place de la Revolution and the soldiers made onlythe most token efforts to hold them back. The cart turned downanother street and an old woman tried to clamber up onto thetumbrel. Leforte stared through her as she screamed unintelligiblyat him. One of the soldiers pulled her off the cart, thenturned to look at Leforte with a mixture of disgust and irritation.A hole appeared in the middle of the soldier’s forehead.Leforte stared at it and frowned. The cart lurched forwardand the soldier fell, being left behind as the procession continued.Puzzled, Leforte turned around to stare at the fallensoldier and then another soldier fell. This time, he heard theshot. Almost immediately, another shot rang out and the driverpitched forward off the tumbrel to fall in a lifeless heap uponthe street. Another shot, another soldier fell.The mob went wild.“What the hell?” said Finn. “Someone’s picking off the soldiers!”“Did you tell them to—”“I didn’t tell them to shoot anybody!” Finn said. “They’re not
even supposed to be here! I sent word to them to wait in thesquare until Leforte arrived!”All around them, the crowd was surging in all directions aspeople ran in panic from the shooting, shoving each other andtrampling those unfortunate enough to have lost their balancein the melee and to have fallen. Only one soldier remainedfrom the small squad assigned to escort the Marquis de Leforte,and he had no desire to join the others. He dropped his musketand ran for the shelter of a building across the street. Thehorses, wearing blinders and by now long used to such cacophony,remained standing where they were, but they sensedthe fear around them and pawed at the cobblestones skittishly.Leforte stood in the tumbrel helplessly, his hands bound, not124 Time Wars #3knowing what to do.“Up there,” said Lucas, pointing to a window on the secondfloor of a house across the street.“Let’s go,” said Finn.They pushed their way through the mob and rushed towardthe house from which the shots were coming. By now, however,they were not the only ones who had marked the roomon the second floor and they made it through the doorway ofthe house just ahead of several other men, one of whom wasbrandishing a pistol. The door to the room they sought wasopen and they all burst into the room to find not a gunman,but a small boy of about twelve or thirteen years with jet blackhair and piercing dark eyes. He sat slumped against the wallbeside a man’s corpse and as they entered, he began to cry.“My father!” he wailed. “That man killed my father!”At the same moment, a cry went up outside and they heardthe sound of horses hooves upon the cobblestones. One of themen who had rushed into the room behind them ran over tothe window, with Lucas just behind him.“It’s Leforte!” the man shouted. “Leforte is escaping!”As Lucas reached the window, he saw the tumbrel beingdriven down the street at a furious pace, the horses beingwhipped up by the same old woman who had only momentsago tried to climb up into the cart.“Stop him!” cried the man, leaning far out of the window.“Stop him, he’s getting away!”The boy kept wailing about his dead father. The men whohad rushed up into the room behind Finn and Lucas ran backoutside, after the one armed with the pistol let off a wild shotin the direction of the escaping tumbrel. Finn and Lucas remainedbehind with the boy.Lucas kneeled down beside him, putting one hand on theyoungster’s head. “What happened, son?” he said.“My father,” sobbed the boy, “that man came in here andThe Pimpernel Plotkilled my father!”“ What man?”“He killed my father!” the boy wailed. “He killed him! Thenhe hit me and said that if I made any noise, he would kill me,too!”Finn bent down over the father’s body. “Shot through thehead,” he said. “From behind.” He stood up. “Look here,” hesaid, as Lucas tried to comfort the boy. He pointed to a pair ofpistols lying on the floor beneath a table by the windowsill.
“He had several pistols, already loaded. That’s how he wasable to shoot so quickly. There’s only two here, I figure he hadat least two or three others. He heard us coming up the stairs,grabbed up the pistols that he could carry, jumped throughthe window down into the street, and lost himself in the crowdwhile his confederate made off with the tumbrel.”“You don’t think that one of—”Finn held a finger to his lips. “Not in front of the boy,” hesaid. Finn had noticed that the boy had stopped his wailingand was only sniffling now, watching them fearfully. “It’s allright, son,” said Finn. “Nobody’s going to harm you now.”“Come on,” said Lucas, helping the boy up. “Where is yourmother, do you know?”“No,” the boy said, pulling away from him as Lucas tried tohelp him to his feet. “No, don’t touch me!”“It’s all right, “ said Lucas, pulling him up by the arm as theboy struggled with him. “We won’t hurt you, I promise you.Don’t be afraid. There’s nothing—”Something fell to the floor with a thump and Lucas glanceddown to see a pistol lying on the floor.“What….”The boy jerked away and pulled another pistol from insidehis tattered jacket, swinging at Lucas with it. Instinctively,Lucas blocked the blow, but the boy had twisted free from hisgrasp and he quickly made for the door. Finn leaped across126 Time Wars #3the room and brought the boy down with a flying tackle.“Merde!” screamed the boy. “Let me go, you big ox! Let mego or else I’ll kill you! Let me go, I said! “He squirmed in Finn’s grasp like a little fish, kicking andclawing at Finn’s face in an effort to get at his eyes.“I’ve got him,” Lucas said, grabbing the boy by the scruff ofthe neck and hauling him to his feet. “All right now, you littlehellion, you’ve got some—HUHHH!”He doubled over as the boy brought his knee up hard intohis groin. The blow made Lucas release his hold upon the boyand he tried to run again, but Finn kicked his feet out fromunder him, sending him sprawling to the floor. Immediately,the boy was up again, but this time Finn brought him downwith a right cross to the jaw and he fell to the floor again,unconscious.“Little bastard,” Delaney said. “You all right, Lucas?”Still doubled over and clutching at himself, Priest looked upand nodded, his eyes wide with pain as he fought to get hisbreath back.“How do you like that little son of a bitch?” said Finn. “Therewas never anybody else in here, he did it all himself.”“I hope you didn’t kill him,” Lucas wheezed.“If I did, it’d serve him right,” Finn said. “Don’t worry, I didn’thit him very hard. He should be coming around in a little while.We’d better get out of here, though. I think we’ll take this littlesniper with us.”He picked the boy up and threw him over his shoulder.“Come on,” he said. “Straighten up and let’s get out of here.If anybody says anything, my ‘son’ here got knocked downin the crush outside. We’d better get word to the boys waitingin the square that the whole thing’s off and have them get backto the boat.”“I’ll take care of that,” said Lucas, still feeling the effects of
the knee to his essentials. “Where will you be?”The Pimpernel Plot“At Fitzroy’s safehouse. I want to ask this kid a few questions.I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I know who that ‘oldwomen’ was.”“You shouldn’t have brought him here,” Fitzroy said.“Relax, Major,” Finn said. “He doesn’t even know where thehell he is. Besides, I was in a hurry and there wasn’t any timeto make other arrangements.”“I sent you to rescue the Marquis de Leforte, and not onlydid you let him get away, but you beat up a little boy. I’m verydisappointed in you two.”“If you’ll recall,” said Finn, “the whole idea was for Leforteto get away.”“As for your disappointment in us, Fitzroy,” said Lucas, “youknow what you can do with that. This wouldn’t have happenedif you had provided proper mission support. If you had issuedus the right equipment, we could have—”“Impossible,” Fitzroy said.“Look here, Major,” Finn said, drawing himself up to his fullheight and glowering at the Observer, “in case you’ve forgotten,this isn’t a standard adjustment anymore.”“If you’re referring to Mongoose,” said Fitzroy, “I alreadygave you your orders concerning him. He’s to be left to theTIA team that will—”“And where the hell were they just now?” Finn shouted.“They should already be here,” said Fitzroy. “They have nothingto do with this adjustment mission. Their target is Mongoose.Your orders are to—”“I’ve had about enough of this,” said Finn, grabbing Fitzroyby the throat and slamming him against the wall.“Have you lost your mind?” Fitzroy croaked. “I could haveyou court-martialed for this!”“So what? It wouldn’t be the first time.”“He’s coming around,” said Lucas.128 Time Wars #3Delaney shoved Fitzroy into a corner and went over to thebed, where the boy was beginning to stir.“All right, kid, wake up,” said Finn, slapping the boy’s facelightly.“Get your filthy hands away, you dogfucker!” snarled the boy,sitting up quickly and slapping at Finn’s hand.Finn grabbed him by his thick black hair and jerked his headback so that it hit the wall behind the bed.“Now listen here, you little shit,” he said, “I don’t give a damnhow old you are. If you’re old enough to kill grown men, you’reold enough to be killed like a grown man, you understand me?Now you shut your mouth and do as you’re told or I’ll breakevery bone in your scrawny little body!”The boy glared at Finn malevolently, but he kept his mouthshut.“Good,” said Finn. “I’m glad to see we understand each other.Now what’s your name?”“Jean,” said the boy, sullenly.“All right, Jean,” said Finn. “You behave yourself and youmight live to get out of this room. You helped an enemy of theRepublic to escape. You know what the penalty for that is.France is—”
“You are not French,” the boy said with a sneer. “You areEnglish spies! I heard you talking.”“You speak English?” Lucas said.“Only a little,” said Jean. “I did not understand all that yousaid, but I know English when I hear it spoken!”“You see?” said Fitzroy. “I told you you should not havebrought him here. This place is useless now.”“I do not care whether you are French or English,” said theboy. “It is all the same to me. Under the aristocrats, I starved.Comes the Revolution, still I starve. It is all the same to me.”“Then why did you kill those men to help Leforte escape?”said Finn.The Pimpernel Plot“Because I was paid well to do it. He gave me fifty francs!For such a sum, I would kill Robespierre, himself.”“Bloodthirsty little savage, aren’t you?” Finn said. “Who gaveyou the fifty francs?”“I do not know his name,” said Jean. “He called himself theScarlet Pimpernel.” Suddenly, the boy looked alarmed and heclapped his hand to his waist, his bravado gone for the moment.“We didn’t take your money,” Finn said.“It is for my brother and myself,” said Jean, submissively.“Please, monsieur, Pierre and I have not eaten for days.”“Where are your parents?” Lucas said.“Dead.”“And your brother?”“I will not tell you! You can kill me, but I will not tell youwhere Pierre is!”“Relax,” said Finn. “We’re not interested in you or yourbrother. I want to know about the man who gave you thatmoney.”“There is not much that I can tell you, monsieur.”“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Finn. “What did he look like?”“About his size,” said Jean, indicating Lucas with a jerk ofhis head. “Not thin, not heavy. Dark hair, dark eyes, a moustachelike so,” he said, indicating by pantomime a generoushandlebar moustache. “Thick eyebrows meeting in the centerof his forehead. He was dressed like a gentleman and he favoredhis left side, as though he were injured there.”“No beard?” said Lucas.Jean shook his head.“The kid’s got sharp eyes,” said Finn. “It was him, all right.The hair was probably a disguise, but that injured side is whereI got him with the sword cane. Go on,” he said to Jean.“There is not much more to tell,” said Jean. “I met him yesterday.I tried to pick his pocket and he caught me. He said130 Time Wars #3that he would let me go and give me fifty francs as well if I wasnot afraid. He said that I could either lose my head for being athief or do as he said and make some money.” Jean shrugged.“The choice was simple. He took me up to that room whereyou found me. The man inside was asleep upon the bed. Hestruck this man, knocking him senseless, then bound andgagged him. He then took out some pistols and asked me if Iknew how to shoot them. I told him that I did not. He showedme how and then I watched him load the pistols. He told me towait in that room until the next day, when the Marquis deLeforte would be brought past the house on his way to the
guillotine. He laid the pistols out and told me to shoot out thewindow and to aim high so that I would not hit the marquis.He said that the soldiers would come and that I was to hidebeneath the bed, leaving the pistols out upon the floor. Theywould see the man tied up on the bed, think that the one whoshot the pistols escaped, and not bother to look for a small boy.He said that if I did well, he would find me again and give memore money.”“But the man inside the room was dead,” said Lucas.“Yes, I killed him,” said Jean.“You killed him? Why?”“It was a good plan, but I thought of a better one,” said Jean.“If I shot high, then the soldiers would come into the room,looking for me. They would have untied that man and questionedhim. They might have found me beneath the bed. I decidedto try to kill the soldiers or as many of them as I could. Iaimed very carefully,” he said with pride. “I made it easier forhim. This way perhaps he will give me more money if I seehim again. I killed the man inside the room because then Icould say he was my father. A dead man cannot be questionedand no one would bother with a small boy, crying for his father.”Finn glanced at Lucas. “Can you believe this?” he said. “ThisThe Pimpernel Plotkid is diabolical. He never shot a gun before and he picked offthose soldiers like a pro.”“I should not have kept those pistols,” Jean said, morosely.“You would not have caught me, then. That was my one mistake.”“Incredible,” said Fitzroy. “Absolutely incredible. The boy’sa born cold-blooded killer. Look at him! No trace of remorse!”“And why should I care about them?” shouted Jean. “Theyare all the same! My father was run down in the street by anaristo in his coach! My mother died of hunger, giving mybrother and me what little morsels she could find! Pierre andI roamed the streets like dogs, picking through the garbage. Iam not sorry for what I have done and I never shall be!”“Well, Delaney, you brought him here, now what are wesupposed to do with him?” said Fitzroy.“Hell, let him go,” said Finn. “What else can we do?”“You are Finn Delaney?” Jean said.Finn glanced at the boy, then at Lucas. “Well, if we had anydoubts about who hired this kid, that takes care of them. Yes,I’m Finn Delaney. He gave you a message for me, didn’t he?”“He said that if I met a man named Finn Delaney or onenamed Lucas Priest, I was to give him this,” said Jean, producinga folded up piece of paper.Finn unfolded the note and read it aloud. “The marquis willbe delivered to the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel inBoulogne-sur-Mer. No one will be the wiser, except yourselves.That’s one for me. The game continues. Tell Cobra he’s out ofhis league.”“Cobra?” said Lucas.Finn sighed. “Do you get the feeling that he’s the only onewho knows what the hell is going on around here?” He lookedat Jean and jerked his head toward the door. “Get out of here.”Jean jumped up and ran for the door, moving as fast as hecould before they changed their minds.132 Time Wars #3“That kid’s going to grow up to be another Mongoose,” Lucas
said.Finn snorted. “For all we know, he might’ve been his ancestor.Maybe we should have killed him.”“You can’t be serious,” said Fitzroy.“That’s right, I can’t be,” said Delaney. “This whole thing’s ajoke to somebody. If I could figure out the punchline, I mighteven laugh.”The Pimpernel Plot7True to his word, Mongoose delivered the Marquis de Leforteto Andrew Ffoulkes in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Ffoulkes naturallythought that it was Blakeney who had done it and the othermembers of the league believed that the whole thing had beenthe result of a last-minute change in plans. They were onlydisappointed that they had not been involved. They had beenlooking forward to torching the Place de la Revolution.The arrival of the Marquis de Leforte in London furtherspread the fame of the Scarlet Pimpernel and both Ffoulkesand Dewhurst found that they had more social invitations thanthey could handle as everyone wanted to know more aboutthis man of mystery. It became the fashion among aristocraticFrench emigres to wear a scarlet pimpernel in their lapelsand this practice soon caught on throughout London society.Soon after Leforte’s rescue, Ffoulkes reported to Lucas thatLord Hastings desired to join the league; the well-turned-outscion of one of England’s foremost families was summarilyrecruited. At a dinner held at the Blakeney estate in honor ofthe Marquis de Leforte the week following his arrival, Finnwas approached by a very handsomely dressed gentleman wholooked vaguely familiar to him.“Evening, Blakeney,” said the man, a tall andbroad-shouldered dandy with flaxen blond hair and bright blueeyes. “I’d like to have a word or two with you, if you don’tmind?”He took Delaney by the arm and gently steered him towarda small and unoccupied sitting room.“How’s it going, Finn?” he said, softly. “Long time, no see.”Delaney tensed and stared at him intently. It was a momentbefore he recognized the TIA agent. “Cobra!”“It’s nice to be remembered,” said the agent. “It’s been a134 Time Wars #3while, hasn’t it? Fitzroy gave me that message from Mongoose.Same old Mongoose, eh? I thought I’d touch base with you andcompare notes.”“How did Mongoose know they’d send you?” said Delaney.“I don’t think he knew, I think he guessed. Still, it was aneducated guess. The odds were pretty good that they’d assignme to the case. I was the logical candidate. The two of us haveworked together often in the past and, after him, I was thesenior field operative. I was pulled off another mission for thisone. I can’t say I mind it very much. This certainly beats sloggingthrough the New England swamps with Benedict Arnold.”“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this mission willbe much easier,” said Finn. “It’s rapidly turning into a realnightmare.”“Don’t get me wrong,” said Cobra, “I’m not underestimatingwhat we’ve got here, but it may not be quite as serious asyou think. At least, not yet.”
“No? What makes you think so?”“Well, Mongoose delivered the Marquis de Leforte to theLeague of the Scarlet Pimpernel, didn’t he? I think that’s anexcellent indication that he’s not out to sabotage your adjustment.”“You neglected to mention that he got a bunch of peoplekilled in the process,” Finn said.“Ah, yes, the boy. We’re looking for him now. It seems thatMongoose was not really responsible for that. Nevertheless,evaluations is checking through on the effects of those deaths.Chances are that they won’t constitute a serious disruption.People are dying left and right in Paris, a couple more deathswon’t make much difference, especially since no one of historicalsignificance was killed. We’re very interested in thatboy, though.”“I thought that your job was to find Mongoose.”“It is and I’m anxious to do that as soon as possible. That’sThe Pimpernel Plotwhy I came to see you.”“What makes you so sure he’s not out to sabotage the adjustment?”Finn said. “You know something I don’t?”Cobra smiled. “I know Mongoose. In a way, I even understandhim, though that’s no mean feat. He wants to make youand Priest look bad, as well as Cross. The three of you are theones who caught him with his pants down. This is just his wayof getting even.”“For saving his life?”“Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But you don’t know him like I do.Mongoose is a little crazy. Maybe recent events have madehim more so. It certainly appears that way. He has a deathwish. We’ve all got that to one extent or another—you, me,Priest—otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Mongoose is a bit moreextreme that way. It’s part of what makes him so effective inthe field. Death doesn’t bother him, he flirts with it. He’s alwaystaken incredible chances and up until the Timekeeperaffair, his risks have always paid off. I’ve seen him set himselfup like you would not believe.”“Oh, I think I’d believe it,” Finn said.“Granted, he finally went too far,” said Cobra. “He wouldhave been killed if you hadn’t intervened. I know you’d thinkthat he’d be grateful, but his mind just doesn’t work that way.What you did amounts to coitus interruptus, in a way. Now he’sout to show us all that he’s still got it. He stole a march on youand that’s only the beginning. He’s going to try to steal yourthunder and lead me a merry chase until this thing is overwith.”“And then what?”“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Cobra. “The biggestmistake they made was that they fixed his face and body, butthey forgot to check his mind. I’m not saying that he’s gone offthe deep end, but there’s no question that he’s allowing hisneurosis to control him. He’s rational, but his rationality is136 Time Wars #3skewed. Fitzroy maintains that if we don’t catch him soon,there’s no telling what he might do. He might even decide tojoin the underground or to clock forward to Plus Time andcontinue playing tag with us there. There is, of course, anotherpossibility and that is that he might be reinstated.”“You’re joking.”
“Why should I be joking? Personally, I’d like to see it happen.We can’t afford to waste talent like his. With reeducation,I’m sure Darrow would have reinstated him eventually.”“That’s not what I heard,” Finn said.“Well, perhaps not. Mongoose made Darrow look bad. Still,he can be helped and the director doesn’t always have the finalword in these things.”“No? Who does?”“I’m afraid I can’t say,” the agent said. “You see, the agencyis not set up the same way as the Temporal Corps or the Observers.We can’t work that way. The director always has acertain amount of authority, but there’s a limit to what eventhe director is given access to. It wouldn’t do to have one manin a position to know everything that goes on in the organization.That would be very bad for security. Also, it helps to havesomeone, like Darrow, to take the fall if necessary.”“You’re telling me that Darrow resigned to cover for someoneelse?” said Finn.“Is that what I said? Perhaps you misunderstood me. Anyway,now that we’ve been placed under the direct control ofthe Observer Corps, there’s a new director and a certainamount of reorganizational instability—”“You mean a power struggle.”“—and, as a result, my team of agents and myself have beenplaced under the command of the Observer on this mission.That means I’ll be taking orders from Fitzroy, at least for thetime being. And his orders are to direct me in apprehendingMongoose and making certain that he doesn’t jeopardize thisThe Pimpernel Plotmission; but as I said, I don’t believe he’ll do that. At least, notintentionally.”“No, of course not,” Finn said, dryly. “Whatever could havemade me think such a thing?”“Relax, Finn, will you? I’m on your side, believe me. Theway things stand right now, I’m in a position to cooperate withyou and I’d really like to do that. However, in order for us to beable to work together, there are certain things you’re going tohave to understand. It’s what I’ve been trying to explain toyou. You were a big help to me on that last mission and I’mtrying to return the favor. Fitzroy doesn’t like you very much.As far as he’s concerned, you’re a maverick and you’re insubordinate.He doesn’t want me to confer with you.”“So how come you’re disobeying orders?”“Because I want to help you. And because I need your help.You know that reorganizational instability I mentioned? It couldgo either way. If it goes one way, certain conditions will prevailthat will result in my having to continue working underFitzroy. If it goes the other way, well, let’s just say that theagency will then go back to doing business as usual. You candraw your inferences from that. I’ll tell you what that meansto you and me, in real terms.”“Please do,” said Finn, “I’m beginning to get lost in thesesemantics.”“Then I’ll try to make myself as clear as possible. If thepresent conditions change, then …the ‘old leadership’ will returnto power. I’ll be able to act independently of Fitzroy andbring Mongoose in for interrogation and reeducation. He canbe helped and made useful and productive once again. I’d verymuch like to see that happen.”
“What’s the alternative?” said Finn.“The alternative is that the ‘new leadership’ will emergepreeminent, with a vested interest in seeing that no furtherreorganizational instability occurs, you get my meaning?”138 Time Wars #3“I think so,” said Finn, “but how does that change anythingwith regard to—”“I’ll still have to apprehend Mongoose and deliver him forreeducation,” Cobra said, “but in that case, I’d be deliveringhim to different people. Remember that he used to be the seniorfield operative.”“And as the senior field operative, he would know who—”“Exactly.”“You’re saying that they’d kill him to keep him from talkingduring reeducation? To keep the new director from findingout who really used to give the orders?”Cobra nodded. “I have no idea whom they’d send to do thejob. I’m a company man, Finn. I follow company leadership.”“But there are others who wouldn’t,” Finn said, “who wouldmaintain loyalty to the old leadership, as you put it.”“That’s right. I was contacted by them just before I clockedout on this mission and told the score. I told them what I toldyou, that I follow company leadership. I don’t think I couldhave made myself any plainer. My job is to take Mongooseback and I intend to do it.”“But if the covert boys lose their bid for power, Mongoosewill have to be eliminated. If you’ve made it clear that you’refollowing the rulebook, you’ll have to be eliminated, too.”“That’s right,” said Cobra. “There’s every reason to believethat at least one member of my team here is awaiting ordersto that effect.”“Jesus,” Finn said, “you’ve got a problem. What are yourpeople into that they’re running so scared?”“I honestly don’t know,” said Cobra. “If it becomes my job tofind out, then I will, otherwise I’d just as soon remain ignorant.It’s safer that way.”“What the hell do you expect me to do?”“My problem is my problem,” said the agent. “With a littleluck and some cooperation on your part, it won’t become yourThe Pimpernel Plotproblem, as well. I don’t want to push Mongoose into doinganything foolish. If I can find him and talk to him, I can makehim understand what the situation is. Perhaps I can even convincehim to lay low and refrain from any further interferencein your adjustment until it’s over, I don’t know. What I’m askingyou to do is back off.”“What do you mean, ‘back off’?” said Finn.“Just what I said. Give him room. Don’t try to go after himon your own. I know how you feel about him, but I’m askingyou to leave him alone, so long as he doesn’t actively endangerthe adjustment.”“How am I supposed to determine that?” said Finn.“I’m asking you to trust my judgment. I need to stall for time,at least until it becomes clear which way the power play willgo. When the situation gets finally resolved, I’ll know. I don’twant to have to go against my own people if I can help it. Bythe time it gets resolved, this adjustment might be over andthen you’ll be out of it. If I take Mongoose before it all gets
settled, they’ll try to hit both him and me, just to be on the safeside.”“And you said that this might not be as serious as I think?”Finn said. “This isn’t only serious, it’s turning into a full-fledgeddisaster!”“It doesn’t have to,” Cobra said. “All I’m asking you to do isto continue playing your part and to leave Mongoose alone.Let me handle it. It doesn’t have to involve you.”“Brother, I can’t get any more involved! Do you realize whatyou’re asking us to do?”“I know,” said Cobra. “I know how it sits with you and I knowthat it’s not going to be easy, but I’ve got to make you understandthat the alternatives are far less attractive.”“Is that a threat?”“I sincerely don’t want it to be,” said Cobra.“Suppose I refuse?”140 Time Wars #3“It would not be in your interest. Your job is to insure temporalcontinuity. Mongoose has thus far shown no inclinationto interfere with that aspect of your job. He’s not out to createany disruptions, only to prove himself superior to you. You havemy personal guarantee that I will back you up in every waypossible in order to help you complete your mission. But I knowthat you’re itching to get your hands on Mongoose, to settleboth this score and an old one. I’m asking you to forget aboutit.”“If I don’t?”“Then I’ll be forced to run interference for him to make surethat you don’t get him,” Cobra said. “I don’t want to have to dothat, Finn, believe me. Mongoose is not your job; he’s my job.Your job is to play Percy Blakeney. All I’m asking you to do is todo your job and to let me do mine, in my own way, in my owntime.”“I know you didn’t have to tell me any of this,” said Finn. “Iappreciate your candor.”“Figure I owed it to you.”“What makes you think I won’t go to Fitzroy with what youjust told me?” Finn said.“You could,” said Cobra. “I wouldn’t try to stop you. But ifthis conversation goes beyond the two of us, especially toFitzroy, you’ll be signing his death warrant and mine, as well;possibly, even yours.”“Yes, I can see that.”“So what’s it going to be, Finn? Do we work together or atcross purposes?”“You’re backing me into a corner, Cobra.”“I know. I’m sorry. I have no choice.”“I’ll let you know. How do I get in touch with you?”“You don’t. I’ll get in touch with you. You’re going to conferwith Priest and Cross?”Finn nodded.The Pimpernel Plot“Yes, I suppose you’d have to,” Cobra said. “I’ve gone out ofmy way to be straight with you. Don’t let me down.”“It’ll be kept between the four of us, you have my word onit,” said Finn.“Thanks.”“Just one more question,” Finn said. “In case we don’t back
off, as you put it, how far are you prepared to go to protectMongoose?”Cobra stared at Finn steadily. “How far are you prepared togo to get him?”Finn nodded and licked his lips. “Yeah,” he said. “Wish Icould say that it’s been nice.”Cobra regarded him silently for a moment, then turned andwalked away. He paused at the door.“I said I owed you for the last time, Finn. Consider the slatewiped clean.”As Finn came out of the sitting room, there was no sign ofCobra. However, Marguerite saw Finn and approached.“Percy, who was that man you were just with? I don’t think Irecall seeing him before.”“Oh, just someone I once knew, my dear,” said Finn.“What was his name?”“Damned if I know. We met somewhere, but for the life ofme, I simply can’t remember where or when. I’m certain itwill come to me.”“You don’t remember him at all?”Finn shrugged. “Odd’s life, my dear, I can’t be expected torecall the name of everyone I meet, now can I? Why worryabout such trivial matters? If he was important, doubtless hewould have made a more lasting impression.”“What a fleeting memory you have, my husband. I wonderthat you recall my name!”“Why, what a thing to say! What are you suggesting?”142 Time Wars #3“Only that I wonder how lasting an impression I made uponyou,” she said. “Sometimes it seems that you’ve forgotten mecompletely. It seems that—”“Why, there’s Lord Hastings!” Finn said, quickly. “I’ve beenlooking for him all this evening. You’ll pardon me, my dear,but I simply must have a word with him concerning businessmatters. We can discuss this later, surely.”His stomach tied in knots, Finn fled Marguerite’s presenceand made his way across the crowded room towards Hastings.He felt her eyes on him as he rushed away, but he did not lookback. He was afraid to.He managed to avoid her for the remainder of the evening,always finding some excuse not to be alone with her and makingcertain that there was always a small group of what hehad privately started calling “the Blakeneyites” around him.These were socially ambitious young men who had fastenedonto him as a role model, copying his style of dress, aping hismannerisms, and laughing his nasal, inane laugh. He despisedthem, but as Blakeney, he encouraged them, stroking theirtender egos and treating them like favorite sons. They serveda threefold purpose. They helped to lend Blakeney an air ofvapid stupidity as they all stood around together, striking casualposes and acting like mindless peacocks. They served asa barrier between him and Marguerite who, contrary to allexpectations, was not growing bored and disenchanted withher husband, but was instead growing more and more determinedto rekindle his interest in her. Already astonishinglybeautiful, Marguerite took great pains to become even moreso for her husband. She kept experimenting with perfumes,looking for a fragrance that would please him and, even whenthere were no guests about, she took great care to dress herself
in an exquisite fashion and to appear as seductive as possible.At parties such as this, the Blakeneyites fawned over heras well, and kept her occupied. Finally, they helped to deterThe Pimpernel Plotthe advances of other women toward Sir Percy Blakeney. Whythese women found the insipid character he had created attractivewas a mystery to Finn, who had never understood mostwomen anyway, except a certain type, like Andre, who wererefreshingly direct and devoid of any affectations. Why Margueritehad not grown totally disgusted with him was a mystery,as well. The mission, which he had thought would be afairly easy one, had developed unique and seemingly insurmountabledifficulties. He was growing sick and tired of thewhole charade.It was with a huge feeling of relief that he went up to hisrooms that night. In the morning, he would be leaving onceagain for France. The Scarlet Pimpernel had to perform anotherdaring rescue. The Marquis de Sevigne had been judgedin absentia by the Committee of Public Safety and condemnedto death. Unable to get out of Paris, the aristocrat had beenhidden by Marguerite’s brother, Armand St. Just. Finn hadpassed the word to Ffoulkes and Dewhurst during the party.It would be far less of a strain than the evening he had justendured. A pleasant sail across the English Channel on theDay Dream would be just the thing to clear his head and hecould then discuss with Lucas what Cobra had told him.Hastings, Rodney Moore, and the Byrne brothers, Alastair andTommy, would book passage across the Channel several hoursbehind him, giving Finn and Lucas all the time they needed tocheck in with Fitzroy and to decide upon a plan of action. Allhe needed now was sleep, and just one more drink.He had brought a bottle of brandy up with him and he satdown on the bed, dressed only in his britches and unfastenedshirt, and drank straight from the bottle. He had polished offone-third of the bottle when the door to his bedroom openedand Andre came in.“It’s a waste of good brandy to gulp it down like water,” shesaid.144 Time Wars #3“Water? What’s that?”“Something happened tonight, didn’t it?” she said. “Somethingshook you up. I could tell, Marguerite could tell, and Isuppose that Lucas could tell, though he’s probably waiting toask you about it tomorrow. I don’t have that luxury, since I’mbeing left behind again.”“I already explained that to you, Andre,” Finn said, wearily.“I need you here, with Marguerite.”“No, you don’t,” she said. “Marguerite has a houseful of servantsto look after her. Nor do I believe that Mongoose plansanything involving her. You’re just protecting me.”“Look, I thought we went all through this,” Finn said. “Yourbeing a woman has nothing to do with it. It’s—”“I know.”“You know? Then what is—”“You’re going to tell me that it’s because this is my first mission,right? Forrester said that this would be an easy one, butit hasn’t turned out that way and you’re only being protectivebecause I’m inexperienced and you’re afraid I’ll make mistakes.”
“All right, that’s true. If you know—”“If you really think that’s true, Finn, then you’re lying to yourself.I may be inexperienced insofar as temporal adjustmentsare concerned, but you wouldn’t have accomplished the onein the seventeenth century without me. I’m an experiencedsoldier and if I was prone to making mistakes, I would havedied back in medieval England. If you want to talk about mistakes,let’s talk about yours.”“Mine!”“That’s right,” she said. “Let’s talk about the mistake youmade in letting Mongoose get away that night in the maze.Let’s talk about the mistake you made in allowing him to getto Leforte before you did. I could not have done any worse.And while we’re at it, let’s talk about the mistake you made inThe Pimpernel Plotfalling in love with Marguerite Blakeney.”Finn stared at her, then looked down at the floor. “How didyou know?”“I know because I’ve been watching you. Also because upuntil this moment, my sole responsibility on this mission hasbeen to stay with her, to keep her occupied and away from youas much as possible. Not only is that unfair, it’s stupid. She’san intelligent woman, Finn, though it wouldn’t take very muchintelligence for her to see right through that ploy, as she didalmost from the very start. I may be a woman, Finn, but I’m asoldier. My sex does not automatically qualify me to be an oldersister or to heal a broken heart. I’m not very good at it. I haven’tcomplained about it up till now because I am a soldier andyou are my superior in rank, but it’s reached the point wheremy company is doing her more harm than good.”“What do you mean?” said Finn.“I told you, Finn, Marguerite’s no fool. She knows I’m thereto be a buffer between the two of you. She might not haveliked it very much, but it might have been easier for her to livewith that if she knew that you didn’t care for her. The onlyproblem is, she knows that you love her.”“How could she know that?”“She’d have to be blind not to see it. Lucas knows that you’reattracted to her, but I don’t think he’s realized yet that there’sa great deal more to it than that. She knows you love her andshe thinks you can’t forgive her because of the St. Cyr affair.She’s been on the verge of talking to me about it several times,but she can’t bring herself to discuss it. It’s obviously extremelypainful for her. Also, she’s very proud. She’s determined to winyou back without having to humiliate herself by begging yourforgiveness.”“Before we go any further,” Finn said, “let’s just keep ourroles straight. It isn’t me she wants, it’s Blakeney. And—”“No, it isn’t Blakeney, Finn,” said Andre. “It’s you. Marguer146 Time Wars #3ite loves you.”“You’re talking nonsense.”“Am I? Let me tell you about Marguerite and Percy Blakeney,Finn, I’ve become an expert on the subject. She talks to mebecause she has no one else to talk to. Marguerite was neverin love with Percy Blakeney. She was in love with the idea ofbeing loved by a man like Blakeney, a simple man as she putsit. She had convinced herself that there was something touchingly
pure and romantic in being loved by a simple man. WhenI said that she wasn’t a fool, I didn’t mean to imply that shewas not naïve.“Blakeney was evidently pathetically clumsy in his courtshipof her. In her own words, he followed her around like alittle puppy. She found that rather sweet. Compared to thepeople she had associated with, he was a dullard. They wereall much smarter than he was, far wittier and much moreskilled in intellectual debate. To say that he floundered in theirpresence would be an understatement, but he kept trying becausehe wanted to impress her. I’m far more experienced inwarfare than in love, but spending so much time with Margueritehas been an education. I believe that Blakeney arousedher maternal instincts and she confused them with affection.All that changed, of course, when Blakeney became cold toher as a result of her part in St. Cyr’s execution.“Do you recall that bet you and Lucas lost just before weclocked out on this mission?”Finn blinked. “What the hell has that got to do with anything?”“Not a great deal, except that it enabled me to understand afew things better,” Andre said. “I imagine that you and Lucasthought that I had spent the whole night rutting with that malewhore-and it amused me to allow you to believe that. In fact, Iwas far too drunk to have much interest in sex, though I didask him to illustrate some things in a purely clinical fashion.The Pimpernel PlotWe talked for most of the night. Thanks to the implant programming,I’m a great deal better educated than I everdreamed I would be, but as I’ve already told you, my educationwas incomplete in some respects. He was an excellentteacher, though not in the way that you must think. He wasvery good at explaining the various physical and emotionalaspects of love, something I knew next to nothing about. WhatI found most fascinating was something he called ‘chemistry.’I understand that it’s a very old expression used to describe—”“I know what chemistry is,” Finn said, irritably.“Well, I didn’t,” Andre said. “When he explained it to me, Ifound it a bit difficult to accept. Maybe it was because I hadtoo much to drink or because nothing like that had ever happenedto me, but the idea of two people having such a strongemotional response to one another with no real knowledge ofeach other seemed somehow improbable to me. Yet, I stronglysuspect that that was what must have happened between youand Marguerite.”She paused, watching him.“Your silence tells me that I’ve guessed correctly. In any othercircumstance, I’m sure it would be wonderful for both of you.However, in this case, the problem is that you know and understandwhat happened, while Marguerite is hopelessly confused.She thought that her husband had grown bored withher at first, then she believed that Blakeney came to hate herbecause of St. Cyr. Now, she knows that her husband lovesher, lusts for her. What’s more, she suddenly finds herself lovingand lusting for her husband, a man who had never affectedher that way before. She’s also noticed that, in manyways, he’s changed. His taste in food is different. Suddenly hecan hold his liquor better than ever before. Someone at thefirst party that we had here reported your verbal fencing match
with Pitt to her almost word for word and she was both de148 Time Wars #3lighted and astonished at your newfound ability. Finn, do youknow what she asked one of the servants yesterday? She wasafraid to ask me because she thought it might get back to you,so she went to the gamekeeper, who’s served the family foryears. I know about it because I’ve been following orders andkeeping an eye on her. I eavesdropped. She asked the old manabout your relatives.”“My relatives?”Andre nodded. “She said she knew that you were an onlychild, but she was curious if you had any cousins, perhaps,who looked a great deal like you.” She paused. “Of course,Algernon Blakeney didn’t have a brother or a sister, so Percyobviously couldn’t have any cousins who were his identicaltwins, could he?”She approached Finn and took the bottle from his hand. “Ican’t really help you anymore with Marguerite,” she said. “Shekeeps asking questions and I’m running out of answers. l don’tknow how you’re going to handle this, Finn, but you’re goingto have to do it. I can’t do it for you. She’s just on the verge ofbelieving the impossible, that her husband is an impostor. AsForrester might have said, she feels it in her gut. What are yougoing to do when it works its way up to her brain?”Taking the bottle with her, she left the room and softly closedthe door.The Pimpernel Plot8They sat together amidships on board the Day Dream asCaptain Briggs piloted the boat across the Channel. They hadsailed on the morning tide. It was a clear day and the windwas brisk and cold, sending sheets of sea spray across the deck,the droplets pattering down like grapeshot. Finn held his shortclay so that the bowl of the pipe was shielded by his hand fromboth the wind and spray as he stretched his legs out beforehim. The crew did not intrude on his and Lucas’s privacy andTony Dewhurst and Andrew Ffoulkes were both below in theircabins, having no desire to remain on deck in such damp andwindy conditions. For Finn and Lucas, it was an ideal opportunityto talk. En route to Dover, Finn had told Lucas all abouthis meeting with TIA agent Cobra and his talk with Andre thenight before.“So she suspects that something’s wrong,” said Lucas. “Thatcould be a real problem. I knew that you felt something forher, but I thought that maybe it was only sympathy or that sheturned you on or perhaps a little of both, but this…. You had togo and lose your head over a pretty face. Worse, you let herknow it. Hell, Finn, you’re supposed to be a pro. Andre’s a rookieand she’s handled herself better on this mission than you have.”“You just don’t understand,” said Finn.“No, I guess I don’t.”“She’s not just another pretty face, Lucas. I’m telling you,this is the real thing. I know it probably sounds corny, but Andrecalled it, there was something happening between us fromthe very start. I’ve just been refusing to admit it to myself. Hell,I’m not some lovestruck kid, I’m old enough to be your grandfatherand then some, but I’m telling you, I’ve never felt thisstrongly about anyone before. It’s a revelation.”
“It’s pathetic, is what it is,” said Lucas, dryly. “The problem150 Time Wars #3is, what are you going to do about it? What can you do?”“I’ve been thinking about that,” Finn said. “Blakeney’s dead.Even when this adjustment is over, when the Scarlet Pimpernelretires, someone is going to have to continue being PercyBlakeney. Forrester said that it might be indefinite, but sinceI’m already on the spot, why not make it permanent?”“Are you serious?”“Yes. Why not?”“Christ, Finn, I can give you several obvious reasons whynot,” said Lucas. “For one thing, you’re in the First Division.Adjustment specialists are just too valuable to waste on temporalrelocation. You ought to know that. Besides—”“They can’t turn me down if I request a transfer,” Finn said.“With my mission record, I’ve got that option.”“Technically, yes, you do,” said Lucas, “but you’re not thinking,Finn. You must really have it bad, because I can’t believeyou’d be so stupid. To begin with, if Fitzroy found out aboutthis, he’d probably put you in for reeducation when this wasover, after which you wouldn’t even remember Marguerite,much less the fact that you wanted a transfer, which theywouldn’t give you anyway, at least not to the relocation units.In fact, that might not be a bad idea. It would certainly solveyour problem.”“It wouldn’t help Marguerite very much,” said Finn.“Oh, I’m glad to see you’ve finally thought of how this wouldaffect her,” Lucas said. “Have you thought of what would happenwhen you clock back to Plus Time and someone from therelocation units gets sent back to substitute for Percy Blakeney,someone she’d have to live with for the rest of her life? If thetwo of you got together, would somebody else be the same?Even if you were allowed to remain here with her, there’s onebasic difference between you and someone from the relocationunits. You’ve had antiagathic treatments and you’re fartoo old to have them reversed. She’d age at the normal rateThe Pimpernel Plotand you wouldn’t. Leaving aside the fact that it would be alittle difficult to explain to all your friends, how do you thinkshe’d feel, watching herself grow old while you remained thesame? How would you feel?”Finn nodded. He looked crestfallen. “You’re absolutely right.I’m being a complete idiot. I don’t know what the hell’s wrongwith me.”Lucas looked at him and smiled, sympathetically. “You’re inlove,” he said. “It’s made idiots of better men than you before.I’m sorry, old buddy, I shouldn’t have been so hard on you, butyou can’t say I didn’t warn you. I told you it would be reallyrough on you if you started caring about her, though this wasn’texactly what I had in mind. You know, it’s funny, but in basictraining they run down just about every possible hazard youcan encounter on the Minus Side, yet I don’t recall anyoneever mentioning the hazard of falling in love with someonewho belongs to another time. You’d think they would includethat.”“Maybe they don’t because there’s not much you can do aboutit,” Finn said.“Well, there’s certainly nothing we can do about it now,”
said Lucas. “Besides, we still have another problem on ourhands. What are you going to tell Cobra?”The corners of Finn’s mouth turned down in a grim frown.“I don’t know. I was going to ask you for suggestions. I knowwhat I wont to tell him, but it’s not for me to decide alone.Besides, you’re the senior officer on this team.”Lucas raised his eyebrows. “No kidding? God damn, someonerecord this for posterity, this is a first. Finn Delaney defersto the chain of command!”“Go to hell.”“After you, old friend, you’re not sticking me with this one.I’m not going to make any command decisions. I left my oakleaves back in Plus Time.”152 Time Wars #3“All right, then, at least give me some feedback. What doyou think our choices are?”“The way Cobra laid it out for you,” said Lucas, “it doesn’tsound like we’ve got much in the way of choices. We eitherplay it his way or we don’t. If we do what he wants us to do, it’shard to say whether we’d be disobeying orders or not. Technically,there’s nothing in our orders that says we have to goafter Mongoose. In fact, Fitzroy was pretty specific on that point.Mongoose is Cobra’s responsibility. However, there’s nothingin our orders that says we have to back off and let Mongooseget away if we get a chance to stop him. If we do that, dependingon who writes the report and how it’s interpreted, we mightbe brought up on charges. Fitzroy’s going to be submitting thereport and he doesn’t like us, anyway. Now we could go toFitzroy and report what Cobra told you. If we do, we’ll be forcingsomeone’s hand and Mongoose, Cobra, or Fitzroy mightget killed. Or all three of them might get killed. Or we mightget killed. Or someone blows the adjustment. God knows, itcould go wrong sixteen different ways.”“If we don’t tell Fitzroy and he finds out about it,” Finn said,“we’ll probably be court-martialed.”“There’s that,” said Lucas. “There’s also the fact thatMongoose’s interference has already resulted in several deaths,courtesy of our overly zealous young friend, Jean. Given thatthose soldiers were killed by someone in their own time, Cobramight be correct in his assessment that temporal inertiawill compensate for it. On the other hand, maybe it won’t andwe’ll have another minor disruption on our hands. Plus there’sthe possibility that Mongoose might inadvertently cause a moreserious disruption. That’s assuming that Cobra’s right againand that Mongoose has no interest in interfering with the adjustment.He could be wrong.”“God, I hate those damn spooks,” Finn said.“Well, it took a while, but I think I’ve finally come around toThe Pimpernel Plotyour point of view,” said Lucas. “I’d like to send the wholebunch of them into reeducation and then put them all to workin waste disposal about a million miles from Earth, preferablyeven farther.”“It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t solve our problem,” Finnsaid.“I’ve just been thinking that it would have made our job awhole lot easier if you had been a bit more on target with yoursword cane that night.”
“I was wondering if you’d get around to that,” said Finn.Lucas sighed. “I’m actually surprised to hear myself say it,but killing him would wrap things up rather neatly, wouldn’tit?”“I hate to be the one to bring this up,” Finn said, “but actually,it wouldn’t. The new director of the agency wants himalive so he can pump him dry. If we killed Mongoose, we’d bedirectly disobeying orders, we’d have both the TIA and theObserver Corps coming down on us and, last but not least,we’d be guilty of murder.”“I don’t think they could make a case for murder,” Lucassaid, thoughtfully.“They could if they wanted to,” said Finn. “Manslaughter, atthe very least. We’d be in it pretty deep.”“That didn’t stop you when you tried to stick him in themaze,” said Lucas.“Things weren’t quite so complicated then,” said Finn. “Besides,I had no intention of getting caught.”“What were you planning to do with the body?”“I hadn’t thought it through that far,” said Finn, “but thereare several nice lakes on the estate. If I weighted him down,he’d sink very nicely and by the time he came up, if he everdid come up, we’d be long gone and no one would ever beable to recognize who it was.”“He’d have implants,” Lucas said. “There’d be the problem154 Time Wars #3of the termination signal.”Finn gazed down at his hand, contemplating his hypo ring.He exposed the needle and stared at it a moment. “Fitzroy waskind enough to issue me some sedatives,” he said. “It wouldmean that we’d have to take him alive, but then we could puthim to sleep and do a little sloppy surgery.”Lucas exhaled heavily. “I can’t believe we’re talking like this,”he said.Finn shrugged. “It’s only talk. So far.”Lucas nodded. “Yeah. So far.”The three of them sat in a corner at a small and rickety tablein a dark and unprepossessing inn called the Chat Gris, on theoutskirts of Calais near Cap Gris Nez. The innkeeper, a surly,grizzled Frenchman named Brogard, did little to disguise hisdislike for the Englishmen or his citizen’s contempt for theiraristocratic status. However, they were paying customers andthe times in France were such that Brogard could ill afford toturn anyone away much less rich patrons with healthy appetiteswho had also taken rooms in his establishment. He servedthem in a prompt, if perfunctory, manner and he kept his contactwith them to a minimum, which suited Lucas, Finn, andAndrew Ffoulkes just fine.“I have found the perfect place,” said Ffoulkes in a low voice,so as not to be overheard, although Brogard had removed himselfto the far corner of the room and was obviously totallyuninterested in anything that Englishmen had to say. “It’s atiny cottage belonging to a Pere Blanchard,” Ffoulkes said, “anold man of Royalist sympathies who was more than happy toallow us the use of his small hut with no questions asked, providinghe received a very reasonable stipend to ease his finaldays. I think he suspects that I am a smuggler, though I’mcertain he doesn’t have a clue as to the sort of goods I’m dealingin.” He grinned.
The Pimpernel Plot“Where is this cottage?” Lucas said.“You take the St. Martin’s road out of town, in the directionof the cliffs,” said Ffoulkes. “At the crest of the road, there is avery narrow footpath, but you must watch for it or else youshall miss it. The footpath leads down to the cliffs, where youwill find the cottage, securely nestled on the hillside and wellhidden from the road and any prying eyes who would not knowto look for it. Blanchard is old, as I have said, and a bit of arecluse. He has an arrangement with a local Jew namedReuben Goldstein to bring him supplies from town occasionally.Outside of that, he has no contact with anyone. It seemedideal.”“Yes, it does seem ideal,” Finn said. “You’ve done well, Andrew.It sounds like exactly what we need.”Ffoulkes smiled, obviously pleased. “What have you learnedof the Marquis de Sevigne?”Finn gave him the information Fitzroy had provided. “He isat present hiding in the apartments of Armand St. Just.”“An inspired hiding place!” said Ffoulkes. “Who would thinkof seeking a wanted aristocrat in the home of one of the membersof the Committee of Public Safety?”“Nevertheless, he must be moved quite soon,” said Finn. “St.Just must be very careful. We have to keep any contact withhim to a minimum, for his own protection. So long as the marquisis there, St. Just is in great danger.”Ffoulkes nodded, grimly. “Indeed. He must be moved at once.Where will he be taken? To our hideout near the West Barricade?”“That’s right,” said Lucas. “He will be taken there tomorrownight, but we cannot risk keeping him there for very long. Wemust move swiftly.”“Tomorrow night,” said Finn. “Shortly before daybreak.” “Youplan to take him out when the gates are closed?” said Ffoulkes.“How will you get past the guards?”156 Time Wars #3“Leave that to me,” said Finn. “Recent escapes have beenconducted in broad daylight. They will be much more vigilantnow during the normal hours of traffic in and out of Paris. Wemust alter our tactics and keep them off balance.”“Very well,” said Ffoulkes. “What’s to be my part?”“Two of our men, Wilberforce and Barrett, have already leftfor Paris,” Lucas said. “They will be at the apartment to meetthe marquis when he arrives. They will then await further instructions.”“For the time being, remain here,” said Finn. “Don’t go outafter Thursday. Expect to hear from us anytime after then. SendRodney Moore and the Byrne brothers to Pere Blanchard’s hut.The marquis will be brought there. Make sure that Blanchardrealizes that he will be implicated if he betrays us. Lucas andI shall meet you here. When we arrive and you know that it issafe, you will go to Pere Blanchard’s hut and signal the DayDream, which will be lying off Cap Gris Nez. Tony will send aboat for you. Lucas and I shall arrange for separate passageback to Dover. The others return on board the Day Dream.Wilberforce and Barrett will be on their own and they understandthe risks. Any questions?”“You are leaving for Paris immediately, then?”Finn nodded.“That still does not leave you much time.”
“Time enough,” said Finn. “The important thing to rememberis not to make our friend Brogard suspicious. Don’t forget,we’re dissolute young Englishmen with time and money onour hands, out to replenish our cellars with French grape. Aska lot of questions around town to that effect between now andThursday. Who is selling? What are they selling? Who is liableto offer the best price? And if you should run into any goodbargains, feel free to buy me several cases.”Ffoulkes laughed and they parted company. As they postedto Paris in great haste, Finn’s depression over Marguerite vanThe Pimpernel Plotished completely, giving way to professional concern.“What do you want to bet that Mongoose tries it again thistime?” said Finn.“If he does, it’ll mean one of two things,” said Lucas.“Since he can’t fool Fitzroy into keeping him briefed anymore,he’ll have to have some sort of pipeline into the TIAteam for information.”“Possible, I suppose, but highly unlikely,” Finn said.“I agree. The other alternative is that he’s been watching usvery, very closely because there’s just no other way he’d knowwhat we were planning.”“That’s what I was thinking,” Finn said. “It’s occurred to methat he might have infiltrated us. For all we know, he could beone of the boys in the league, since we have no idea what helooks like now. Come to think of it, we never knew what hereally looked like, did we? He’s changed his appearance somany damn times, I wonder if he knows what he really lookslike anymore. I’ve cut down the odds as much as I could whenI planned this operation. No one knew in advance what they’dhave to do.”“That still leaves room for error,” Lucas said.“Yes, and doubt. Still, it’s about as tight as it could be, I think.We know for sure that Ffoulkes is okay because he took deliveryof Leforte from Mongoose and Dewhurst was with him thenight I met Mongoose in the maze, which also eliminatesDewhurst. Besides, Briggs was with Dewhurst when Lefortewas snatched. That still leaves the others. Wilberforce andBarrett have orders not to leave each other’s sight. RodneyMoore is with the Byrne brothers, so no one will be alone. Atleast, no one should be alone except for Andy Ffoulkes. Have Ileft anything out?”“No, that covers it. If anyone is where they shouldn’t be we’vegot ourselves a suspect. If they all alibi each other, then thatscratches all of them and we can concentrate on the ones who158 Time Wars #3remained behind on this trip. It’s slow, but it’s steady. It mightwork.”“It had better work,” said Finn. “Well, you going to take thefirst shift or shall I?”“You go ahead and sleep,” said Lucas. “I’ll wake you at thefirst change of horses.”They reached Paris without incident the next night and Finnpaid the driver a handsome bonus, as promised, for keepingup a breakneck pace all the way. The exhausted driver tookthe money as though it were contaminated, coming from Englishhands, but it was quite a large sum and he did not complain.The first thing they did upon entering the city was to check
in at the safehouse with Fitzroy, who had established new quartersfor himself near the Place de la Revolution. Even thoughthey had traveled with all possible speed, they were runningshort of time, according to their schedule. Fitzroy confirmedthat Alan Wilberforce and John Barrett had taken up their stationin the tiny apartment near the West Barricade.“The marquis should be there right now,” Fitzroy said. “Youstill have some time, but you cut it pretty close.”“That was the plan,” said Finn. “I want no problems or mistakesthis time.”“I see,” Fitzroy said. “I trust that there will be none. I’ve obtainedthe disguise you asked for. We still have a little timeleft. While you’re getting prepared, we can go over the plan.”The streets were nearly empty as they neared their destination.It was very late and only a few people were about. Finnand Lucas had both changed their clothing. They appeared tobe ordinary citizens and Finn had added a dark wig, whiskers,and a moustache, along with some additional facial makeup,so that he could meet with Wilberforce and Barrett and not beThe Pimpernel Plotrecognized as Percy Blakeney.“If Wilberforce and Barrett do their part right, it should allgo smoothly,” Lucas said. “Unless one of them is Mongoose.”“We’ll know soon enough,” said Finn. “Just don’t turn yourback on either of them. One more time. You three start shootingyour pistols at …?”“Three on the dot,” said Lucas.“Good. I’ll wait until I hear the ruckus, then I’ll make mymove with the marquis. As soon as the guards get drawn away,I’m going for the gate. They’ll probably leave a couple of menon the gate unless we get real lucky, but they’ll be tired after afull shift and shouldn’t pose a problem. I just hope to hell thehorses are where Fitzroy said they would be.”“We’ve gone over it with him twice,” said Lucas. “They’ll bethere. I just hope the marquis doesn’t panic on us.”“If he does, I’ll put him to sleep for a little while,” said Finn.“I’ll get him to Cap Gris Nez if I have to carry him.”They turned down a narrow side street and walked halfwaydown the block until they came to the house where Wilberforceand Barrett were waiting with the marquis. The room was onthe second floor. The windows were covered, as per instructions.“Wait down here,” said Finn. “I’ll send the boys down to you.I’ll give you a five-minute head start, then I’ll follow with themarquis.”Finn entered the building and slowly climbed the steps tothe second floor, being careful not to make any noise. He cameto the door of the apartment where the marquis was beinghidden and softly knocked three times. The door opened justa crack.“I come from the Pimpernel,” Finn whispered.He was admitted and he entered quickly. Just as quicklyBarrett shut the door behind him, lowering the hammer slowlyon the pistol he held in his right hand.160 Time Wars #3“What is it?” Barrett said in a low, urgent voice. “Has anythinggone wrong?”Finn tensed. There was no one in the room except himselfthe tall and slender Barrett, and the shorter, more heavily built
Wilberforce. Both men were staring at him anxiously. Therewas no sign of the marquis.“What do you mean?” said Finn, disguising his voice. “Whereis the marquis?”Barrett looked alarmed and he exchanged a quick glancewith Wilberforce. “Why, he has gone with the boy, as the Pimpernelinstructed,” he said.“The boy! What boy?”“The little street urchin,” said Wilberforce looking concerned.“Jean, I think his name was. He brought the woman’sclothing for the marquis and they went out together, posing asmother and son.”“What’s the matter?” Barrett said. “Something’s gone wrong,hasn’t it?”“No, no,” Finn said, recovering quickly, “nothing has gonewrong. I just didn’t know that the Pimpernel would use theboy, that’s all.”They looked relieved. “Well, Alan and I were both a bit surprisedthat the Pimpernel would use a child,” said Barrett, “buthe did seem like a capable young chap and I must admit it wasa stroke of genius, using a little boy. Who would suspect amother and her son?”“Who, indeed?” said Finn. “I hadn’t known the plan. I wasonly told the part I was to play.”“The Pimpernel likes doing things that way,” said Barrett.“Less chance for the plan being discovered, what? Young Jeansaid we would be contacted regarding any change in plan orinstructions for our departure. I expect that’s your job, eh?”“Right, that’s what I came for,” Finn said. “You are to staythe night. Make your way out of the city tomorrow afternoon.The Pimpernel PlotYou are English gentlemen who had heard about the goings-onhere and came to see how the Revolution had changed thingsfor yourselves. You’ve had a perfectly marvelous time and nowyou’re on your way home to tell your friends all about it. Ifyou’re asked about the Scarlet Pimpernel, you are to overwhelmthem with questions in return. Everyone in Londonwants to know about the Pimpernel and who would know betterthan the soldiers at the gates? They should grow quite disgustedwith you and pass you through without further inquiry.”The two men grinned at each other.“I say this calls for a celebration,” Barrett said. “We’ve gotseveral bottles of claret waiting to be uncorked, old chap. Willyou join us?”“Wish I could, but I must be on about my business,” Finnsaid. “You’ve done well. Good night and good fortune to you.”He left them and hurried back downstairs to Lucas.“What’s happened?” Lucas said, grabbing his arm.“That son of a bitch has done it again!” said Finn. “He beatus to it and took the marquis out from right under our noses!”“Took him? How?”“You’re not going to believe this,” Finn said. “It was that kid,that miserable little pickpocket—”“ You mean Jean? The same boy that we—”“That’s him. He walked right up to the door, said the Pimpernelhad sent him, and they turned the marquis over to him.We couldn’t have missed him by more than twenty minutes!”“Fitzroy is going to have a stroke,” said Lucas. “What do wedo now?”
“What else can we do? Get back to the coast. But first we’regoing to have to go to Fitzroy and tell him what happened.”“I’m not looking forward to this,” Lucas said, as they startedwalking back.“Neither am I,” said Finn, “but at least we’ve got somethingto tell him beyond the fact that we blew it. There can’t be any162 Time Wars #3doubt about it now. Mongoose is one of the members of theleague. If we get back to Cap Gris Nez and find out that somebodywasn’t where he should have been, that’s our man.”“Otherwise, it’s one of the men who remained behind inEngland,” Lucas said. “But then, Hastings, Browning and theothers wouldn’t have known the plan.”“True, but they’d know about the hideout,” Finn said. “They’dalso know to follow whomever we sent on ahead to Paris.There’s no other way he could have done it. One of them isMongoose.”“Really?” said Fitzroy. “That’s very interesting.”“That’s all you have to say?” said Finn.“No, not quite all,” Fitzroy said. “I could say that I’m franklysurprised that it took the two of you so long to come to thatconclusion. Cobra suspected it right from the start when hearrived. I could say that if you had been more thorough inpreparing your men for this rescue attempt, instead of keepingthem in the dark about what they were to do until the verylast minute, this might not have happened. In fact, I could saya great deal more, but I’m not going to bother. Instead, I amgoing to assume full authority over this adjustment immediately.I have had about enough of your sorry inefficiency.”“Now just a minute,” Lucas said, restraining Finn with a handon his arm. “I didn’t hear you objecting to the plan when wewent over it with you. As for taking charge of this adjustment,aren’t you overstepping your authority just a little? You’rewithin bounds to pass on directives from Plus Time, but Observersaren’t—”“‘I know very well what the function of an Observer is, MajorPriest, I don’t need you to tell me! Yes, you’re quite correct,I am departing from normal procedure, but the two of youhave left me no other choice. You’ve been outwitted twice, bothtimes by a boy who can’t be more than twelve years old!”The Pimpernel Plot“You know very well that Mongoose had that kid—” Finnbegan, but Fitzroy interrupted him.“I am inclined to agree with agent Cobra that Mongoose doesnot present an overt threat to this operation. It’s clear to methat he desires nothing more than to embarrass the two ofyou, and he seems to be succeeding admirably. He’s doing yourjob for you and doing it quite well, I might add. As long as itgets done, I don’t really care who does it, so long as the ScarletPimpernel receives the credit.”“So what do you expect us to do?” Finn said, angrily. “Youwant us to sit on our hands while Mongoose does all the work?”“That’s a very tempting proposition,” said Fitzroy. “However,I will tell you precisely what I expect you to do. I expect you tocontinue playing your parts and to refrain from any sort ofindependent action. I will devise the plans for all future rescuesand I will expect you to follow them to the letter, to thelast detail. I will have my support staff working, with agent
Cobra’s team standing by to observe each aspect of each operation,ready to act when Mongoose makes his move. Themoment that the object of the rescue is safely out of danger,the agents will move in and apprehend their man. Betweenmy own efforts in this regard and agent Cobra’s investigation,Mongoose will be taken. I will do my very best to keep yourpart in this as uncomplicated as possible in order to avoid confusingyou. I still need a Percy Blakeney. Unfortunately,Delaney, you’re all I have to fill that role, so you will simplyhave to do, at least for the time being. Now I suggest the two ofyou make your way back to Cap Gris Nez, where Mongoosewill undoubtedly deliver the Marquis de Sevigne to the Leagueof the Scarlet Pimpernel. With any luck, perhaps the TIA agentswill apprehend him there and you’ll be spared any furtherembarrassment. Good night, gentlemen.”Finn was on the verge of making a temperamental reply,but Lucas took him by the arm and firmly pulled him toward164 Time Wars #3the door. Fitzroy watched them with disdain as they left, thenshook his head and chuckled.“All right, Jean,” he said in French, “come on out.”The closet door opened and the boy stepped out.“How did you leave the marquis?”“Asleep, downstairs,” the boy replied. “I pricked him withthe ring, just as you said. He glanced at the ring he wore onhis left hand, identical to the one Finn had been given. “Howdoes it work?”“Don’t concern yourself, Jean, you would not understand.You’ve done very well. Here.” He gave the boy a purse. “Thisis for you and your brother. Take care that no one steals itfrom you. I’ll have more work for you very soon.”“Thank you, monsieur.”“That will be all. Run along now. Take care that no one seesyou leave.”The Pimpernel Plot9Following the arrival of the Marquis de Sevigne in Englandthe Scarlet Pimpernel became a national obsession. A horsenamed Scarlet Pimpernel won at Ascot. A milliner inKnightsbridge offered for sale hats “a la Scarlet Pimpernel”and was soon swamped with orders. Several tailors began tospecialize in suits and dresses “a la Scarlet Pimpernel” which,in spite of their designation, were available in a wide choiceof colors. Scarlet Pimpernels were worn in lapels across thecountry, pinned to hats, worn as corsages, painted upon snuffboxes,made from silk and attached to horses’ bridles, used asa garnish for a wide variety of dishes, and embroidered uponvelvet slippers, dressing gowns, jackets and handkerchiefs. Itseemed that the Scarlet Pimpernel was foremost in the mindof every Englishman, especially the ersatz Sir Percy Blakeney.Mongoose had delivered the marquis to Pere Blanchard’shut, dropping the aristocrat off at the crest of the St. Martin’sroad and directing him to follow the footpath down to the cottage.The nobleman arrived only slightly the worse for wear,suffering from dizziness and disorientation like the others beforehim. He had attributed the effects to the “sleeping draught”he had been given, ostensibly to prevent him from knowinghow he was spirited out of Paris. However, Finn and Lucas
both knew that what he had felt were not the aftereffects of adrug, but of travel from one place to another via chronoplate.Finn had been encouraged upon learning that the marquishad been taken to the cottage, for the hut had not existed as ahiding place for them until Andrew Ffoulkes had arranged forit shortly after their arrival in France. Obviously, it meant thatMongoose knew their plans and therefore had to have assumedthe guise of one of the members of the league. Yet, he hadthwarted their efforts to expose him by decoying some of the166 Time Wars #3men away from where they should have been. Just before theywere to leave Paris, Wilberforce and Barrett had received anote signed with the red flower, instructing them to leave thecity separately for the sake of greater security and telling themto rendezvous at Blanchard’s cottage off the St. Martin’s road.Finn recalled that they had gone out to purchase wine whilethey waited for the arrival of the marquis, which meant thatone of them could easily have arranged for Jean to pick up thearistocrat and then deliver him to Pere Blanchard’s hut, sincethe other would be traveling alone. Rodney Moore and theByrne brothers had been separated, as well. Ffoulkes had receiveda note similar to the one Barrett and Wilberforce weresent. He had found it up in his room shortly after Finn andLucas left for Paris. It had instructed him of a change in plans,the reason being that the French had “spies everywhere” andit was best to keep altering the plans at the last minute in orderto avoid exposing themselves. Ffoulkes had accepted thenote without question and had followed the instructions to theletter. He had directed the Byrne brothers to remain at thecottage and he had sent Rodney Moore to watch the St. Martin’sroad, where he was to wait for an old woman driving a farmwagon to pass by and then watch to see if anyone followed.The “old woman” would obviously be the Pimpernel in disguise.“He could be Moore or Barrett or Wilberforce said Finn. “Forthat matter, it’s possible that he could be one of the otherswho stayed behind in London. There’s nothing that could haveprevented him from picking the group up in Calais and followingFfoulkes or one of the others to the hut. Then he couldhave tailed Wilberforce and Barrett. There’s any number ofways in which he could have managed it.”“At least we know to scratch the Byrne brothers,” Lucas said.“They were together all the time.”“It’s really starting to get to me,” said Finn. “I feel like a fraud.”The Pimpernel Plot“You are a fraud,” said Lucas, grinning.“That isn’t what I mean. The thing is, I am—that is, Blakeneyis supposed to be the Pimpernel, but I haven’t—that is, he hasn’trescued anybody!”“So?”“So Blakeney’s only saving grace was that he only appearedto be an idiot, while being the Pimpernel in reality. I only appearto be the Pimpernel, while being an idiot in reality.”“What the hell are you talking about?” said Lucas.Finn sighed. “I don’t know. This whole thing is ridiculous.Look at us, sitting here like a couple of old men on a parkbench. All we need are some bread crumbs and a flock of pigeons.We were talking about killing Mongoose because he’swreaking havoc with this mission, but what has he really done
that’s so damn terrible? He’s been doing all our work for usand taking most of the risks. I’ve got a feeling that we shouldbe thanking him!”“That’s exactly what he wants,” said Cobra.They both started and turned to see the agent standing rightbehind them, leaning against a tree. They hadn’t even heardhim approach. He was still dressed the way he had been at theparty, in his dandy’s suit, cut in the incroyable style which PercyBlakeney had made so popular in London.“Jesus!” Finn said. “Don’t do that!”“You boys are really slipping,” Cobra said. “Mongoose mustbe getting to you.”“How long have you been standing there? “ said Lucas.“Long enough.” He held out an elegant silver case. “Cigarettes?”“I could use one,” Finn said. “Thanks.”He lit their cigarettes for them and took one himself. “Can’tstand those damn clay pipes, myself,” he said. “It’s like smokingchalk. Anyway, killing Mongoose would be a big mistake.For one thing, if you were lucky enough to beat me to him, I’d168 Time Wars #3be right there to stop you. The only way that you could eliminatehim would be to eliminate me, first. Not impossible, I’llgrant you, but it would just buy you a great deal of trouble andit seems you’ve already got more than you can handle.”“You don’t say,” said Finn, wryly.“I’ve been watching you two rather closely,” said the agent.“Who do you think drove the coach that took you to Paris?”“That was you?” said Finn.“None other. Mongoose isn’t the only expert at disguise, youknow. I should add that I appreciated the generous tip. Thatwas a tiring journey.”“If you’re so on top of things,” said Lucas, “where were youwhen the marquis was taken?”“Following you,” said Cobra. “At this point, I’m a little moreconcerned about what you two might do than I am about Mongoose.His death might solve your problem, but it would notsolve mine. I asked you to cooperate with me on this. I needyou working with me, not against me. You’ve got nothing tolose by following my instructions.”“I wish it were that simple,” Lucas said. “It might appearthat all that Mongoose has done so far has been to make uslook like fools, which might very well be his sole intent, butyou’re forgetting that he’s breaking all the rules, even goingso far as to involve someone from this time period in this disruption.”“You mean the boy.”“Yes, damn it, I mean the boy! Due to his interference, thatboy has already killed several people. Mongoose has to realizethat he’s already altered the course of that boy’s entire life,yet he continues to use him to further his own ends. That’s adisruption in itself and there’s no telling what effect it will have.The point is that Mongoose obviously doesn’t care.”“You’re quite right about that,” Cobra said. “Involving theboy was dangerous. The boy can’t be overlooked and I intendThe Pimpernel Plotto take care of it.”“Have you found him yet?” said Finn.“No, but then I’ve been extremely careful not to look forhim.”
Finn rubbed his forehead wearily. “This is beginning to giveme migraines. You mind telling me why not?”“Not at all. If my people find the boy, they might very wellfind Mongoose. I’m not yet ready for Mongoose to be found.”“Has it occurred to you that by procrastinating on this casebecause of the agency’s internecine power struggle, you havebecome a threat to this adjustment?” Lucas said.“Yes, that has occurred to me. I’m taking a calculated risk.”“I’ve got news for you, friend,” said Finn. “That decision isn’tyours to make.”“No one else is in a position to make it,” Cobra said. “Try tosee my side of it. With Mongoose dead, admittedly, most ofyour problems would be solved. However, he’s no good to anybodydead. Leaving aside the fact that he used to be a damngood operative and could be again, he’s exposed a massiveflaw in the databank security system by cracking it. Alive, hecan tell us how he did that. It doesn’t really matter who windsup being in control of the agency, that would benefit everyone.With Mongoose dead, we might never find out how hekeyed into the system, which means that there’s a chance thatsomebody else might figure out how to do exactly the samething. We might not be so lucky next time. Mongoose purposelyleft us a lot of clues. Someone else may not be so considerate.You really want to try going out on a mission when the recordsused to brief you have been tampered with?”Neither Finn nor Lucas spoke.“You see? You really have no choice. Mongoose must be takenalive. Fitzroy understands that.”“He just doesn’t understand that you’re stalling, waiting forthe proper time to act,” said Finn.170 Time Wars #3“That’s for his own protection,” said the agent. “And I remindyou that I didn’t have to tell you that. I’m going out of myway to play it straight with you two.”“So long as we’re all being so frank and open with each otherin this new era of intra-agency cooperation,” Lucas said sarcastically,“I’d like to ask you what you think will happen if theold guard in the agency lose out in their bid for control.”“Well, that all depends,” said Cobra. “Under the new administration,the autonomy of the agency has been severelycurtailed. I’m not particularly qualified to assess the situation,but I can offer some educated guesses. Essentially, what thenew director and his people have to do in order to bring mattersfully under their control is to find a highly elite group of,well, moles within the agency. That’s not an easy task. Whenthe new director assumed his office, one of his first acts was toorder a compilation of a complete roster of all TIA personneland their field people.”“Field people?” Lucas said.“Indigenous personnel in the employ of field office sectionheads.”“Hold it,” Finn said. “Do I understand you correctly? Are youtelling us that TIA agents in the field employ people withinthose time periods?”“Certainly.”Finn was aghast. “Are you people out of your fucking minds?That’s in direct violation of—”“I know, I know,” said Cobra, patiently. “However, considerthe job the section heads have to do. Their problems are almost
insurmountable. Can you imagine the amount of personnelthat would be required in order to allow them to gatherall the necessary intelligence to profile the historical scenariosto which they are assigned? It would be a highly unstable situationif we brought that many people in. Besides, all anybody’sreally interested in are the results. Without them, you peopleThe Pimpernel Plotwould not be able to function. So, there’s always been a sort ofunofficial policy of looking the other way when indigenouspersonnel have been brought in. The section heads have alwaysbeen very careful about using them. But now that thenew administration has requested a complete personnel roster,it’s all become official. Of course, any such roster wouldbe impossible to compile. No section head would be willing toreveal who his field people are and how many of them he uses.It would compromise the whole setup. That’s what reallybrought this whole thing out into the open.”“So you’ve got the new administration and regular agencypersonnel on the one side,” Lucas said, “and the section heads,field agents such as yourself, and covert operations on theother. Who has final authority, practically speaking?”“Practically speaking, both sides have final authority,” Cobrasaid. “That’s why we have our little problem. So long asthe new administration doesn’t know who directs covert operations,the handful of people who do know continue to taketheir orders from the ‘old guard,’ as you put it. Mongoose isonly one of several people whom I imagine have access to thatinformation, which is why the director wants him so badly.The point is, he might not need him. Right now, he’s ordered ascanning procedure for all agency personnel. Sooner or later,he’s bound to interrogate somebody who has the right answers.Whoever directs covert operations is probably pulling all thestrings available in order to block the scanning operation.”“How would they do that?” said Lucas.“I imagine they’d have to coerce an influential member ofthe Referee Corps.”“Could they do that?” Lucas said.“It’s been done before.”“That’s wonderful,” said Finn. “Next time someone tells methat my paranoia is unjustified, I’ll laugh in their face.”“I don’t understand how they can justify their actions con172 Time Wars #3sidering what’s at stake,” said Lucas. “The only thing that hasprevented a temporal split so far is the inertia of the timestreamand a hell of a lot of luck. The whole mechanism for insuringtemporal continuity is held together with nothing more thanspit and they’re playing these kind of games.”“Only because they have to,” Cobra said. “I’m not sayingthat egos and the desire for power don’t enter into it, but bothsides feel that the other is acting to the detriment of temporalcontinuity. The ‘old guard’ feels that their system ofintelligence-gathering and directing operations is the onlything maintaining temporal continuity. My guess is that that’swhy the agency tried to take over control of temporal adjustmentsfrom the First Division. On the other hand, a valid argumentcan be made for the position that the TIA has becomelike an octopus with more tentacles than it can control or knowsit has.”
“And where do you stand?” Lucas said.“I’m a fatalist, Priest,” said Cobra. “I was out on a missionwhen the breakdown in the chain of command occurred, otherwiseMongoose’s job as head of field operations would havegone to me. If that had happened, I probably would have beenthe first one interrogated and none of this would have happened.On the other hand, my being out on a mission at preciselythat time may not have been circumstantial, if you getmy meaning.”“So you’re saying you’re going with whichever way the windblows,” Finn said.“I’m following the orders of my superiors,” said Cobra. “I’mnot asking you to do anything other than what you’ve beenordered to do. I realize that you have a lot of leeway in interpretingthose orders. I’m only asking you to exercise that option.”He paused to field-strip his cigarette. “Frankly, I thinkthat all any of us can do is go through the motions. I’m convincedthat a temporal split is inevitable. There’s simply beenThe Pimpernel Plottoo much temporal pollution. We can’t control it any more. It’slike riding a runaway horse. You can’t stop it, all you can do istry to stay in the saddle.”“There’s just one problem with that kind of thinking,” Lucassaid. “It presupposes that there’s already been so much interferencewith historical events that a breakdown in thetimestream is unavoidable. If that’s the case, we might as wellgive up and go home. The point, to follow your analogy, is notto concentrate on staying in the saddle, but to keep the horsefrom taking the bit between its teeth and running away withyou in the first place. How the hell do you expect to function ifyou believe that the outcome has already been decided?”“You continue to function because there’s nothing else todo,” said Cobra. “You think about it too much and you won’tbe able to function at all. For instance, have you consideredthe possibility that there might already have been a timestreamsplit at some point in the past and that we’re part of it?”“Then why aren’t there two of each of us around?” said Finn.Cobra smiled. “You never know,” he said. “When you getback, maybe there will be.”“Maybe,” said Lucas. “That might very well depend on whatwe do about Mongoose.”“I’ll make a deal with you,” Cobra said. “You open to a proposition?”“We’ll listen,” Finn said.“I can’t trust my own people,” Cobra said, “but I can trustthe two of you. If the new director is made to back off andcovert operations continues being autonomous, the investigationwill be called off and my problem will be solved. If it goesthe other way, I’m still duty-bound to deliver Mongoose, butthere might be people in my team with orders to eliminatehim if that happens. In that event, I’ll need help.”“What’s your proposal?” Finn said.“I think that I can see a way out of our present predicament,”174 Time Wars #3said Cobra. “You want Mongoose stopped, neutralized beforehe does something to screw up your mission. I want him aliveand I don’t want to interfere with you doing your job as yousee it. I think that I may have a line on Mongoose, but myhands are tied right now. As a result, I can’t help you. However,
I can misdirect my own people. I’ll be taking a chance,but I think I can pull it off. I also think that I can apprehendMongoose within a matter of days. I propose to do just that, assoon as possible, and then hand him over to you.”“There’s only one problem with that idea,” Lucas said. “Wecan’t protect him for you and continue with this adjustment atthe same time. The Scarlet Pimpernel still has work to do. Wewon’t be able to guarantee his safety.”“You can if I give you a chronoplate,” said Cobra. “I’ll stayhere with Finn and help him to continue doing the Pimpernel’swork. You and Andre can take the chronoplate and, with Mongoosein your custody, you can get lost.”“You’re asking us to desert,” said Lucas.“No, just to go A.W.O.L. for a while.”“Really?” Finn said. “Who gets to explain their sudden disappearanceto Fitzroy?”“Leave that to me,” said Cobra.“Forget it, we’re leaving nothing to you,” said Finn. “We camehere to do a job and all you’ve done since you arrived is complicatethings. This would have been a simple adjustment mission,inasmuch as any mission can be simple, if it wasn’t forthe TIA. All you guys were ever meant to do was gather historicalintelligence to compensate for inaccuracies and omissionsin the books and that’s it, period. Somewhere along theline, you decided to become historical policemen. I find theidea that your people might have a Referee or two in theirpocket frankly frightening. Next thing you know, the agency isgoing to start getting involved in arbitration conflicts. Maybeyou people should change your initials to CIA or KGB. TheyThe Pimpernel Plotdid much the same sort of thing before one became a multinationalcorporation and the other became a monarchy.”“I can well understand your frustration, Finn, but I don’t setagency policy, you know.”“You just got through telling us that you’re the only one in aposition to do just that on this adjustment,” Finn said. “Do youknow what you’re doing or are you just making all this up asyou go along?”“I take it you’re refusing to cooperate, then?” said Cobra.“You take it wrong, Agent Cobra,” said Delaney. “You’re theone who’s refusing to cooperate. If I wasn’t convinced that theremight actually be a real threat to Fitzroy’s life, I’d tell him exactlywhat you’re doing. I’ll give you one thing, you’ve demonstratedthat Mongoose must be taken alive, if for no other reasonthan that the new Observer-backed administration of youragency needs to learn who’s really been calling the shots allthis time.”“I see no conflict there,” said Cobra.“Well then, I’ll make a deal with you,” said Finn, “and wecan stop all this nonsense. Lucas and I will agree to back offand leave Mongoose to you provided that you stop wastingyour time shadowing us, get onto Mongoose, and either arresthim or make certain that he doesn’t sabotage this mission.Tell us who your suspect is. We won’t move against him withoutany proof, but at least we can watch him and work aroundhim.”“Or else?” said Cobra.“Or else we grab him ourselves the moment we have anopportunity and turn him over to Fitzroy, who’ll clock him out
before your people have a chance to do much more than widentheir eyes in surprise. And that’s my proposition.”Cobra smiled. “That makes a good deal of sense,” he said.“There’s really only one slight problem with that idea.”“I somehow had a feeling that there might be,” Finn said.176 Time Wars #3“I doubt that you know what it is, though,” Cobra said, grinning.“All right, Finn, I’ll play my ace. I’ll play it because I thinkyou’ll have no choice but to fold. I’ll even accept your proposition,conditionally.”“What’s the condition?” Lucas said“That you follow my direction from this point on, regardlessof what Fitzroy says.”“Brother, it had better be one hell of an ace you’re going toplay,” said Finn. “If you think you can undermine Fitzroy—”“My suspect is Fitzroy,” said Cobra.Andrew Ffoulkes and Tony Dewhurst didn’t recognize theyoung man who had arrived in Dover with Lucas and PercyBlakeney. Dewhurst thought that the young man looked somehowfamiliar, but he could not place where he had seen him.What puzzled both of them was the fact that this dark-haired,bearded young man whom neither of them knew was suddenlya member of their league, the only one besides themselves,Lucas, and Andre who was allowed to know that PercyBlakeney was the Pimpernel.“Curious chap, that,” Ffoulkes said to Blakeney as they sattogether in The Fisherman’s Rest. “Keeps to himself, all right.He hasn’t said two words to us.”Finn nodded. “Rico is not the friendly sort, I’ll warrant. Getsalong with damn few people.”“He’s an Italian, then?” said Dewhurst.“Neapolitano,” Finn said. “Doesn’t speak English very well,but he’s fluent in French.”“Damn it, Percy,” Ffoulkes said, “who in God’s name is he? Ithought we had agreed that we would pass on all members ofthe league together!”“Steady, Andrew,” Dewhurst said. “Percy knows what he’sabout.”“No, no, it’s all right,” Finn said, placatingly. “It’s true, weThe Pimpernel Plotdid agree upon that and I apologize for not consulting withyou. However, Rico is a rather special case. He is an old friendof mine. I wrote to him some time ago, asking him to comeand join us.”“Didn’t I meet him once in Naples, aboard the Day Dream?”Dewhurst said, frowning.Finn raised his eyebrows. “Why, I think you might have, Tony.Yes, I do seem to recall your meeting briefly.”Dewhurst nodded. “I was certain that he looked familiar.That must be it, then. Why all the mystery?”Finn smiled. “No mystery, really. I simply wasn’t sure if hecould come. I meant to discuss it with you, I suppose, but whatwith one thing and another, it must have slipped my mind.”Dewhurst and Ffoulkes both looked at Rico, who was sittingat a corner table by himself, smoking a pipe.“What’s so special about him, then?” said Ffoulkes.“He’s to be our main agent in Paris,” said Finn. “Knows thecity well, spent a good part of his childhood there. I wanted to
have someone who was not known to be associated with us tokeep in close contact with St. Just. In fact, the less we’re seentogether with him, the better. That’s why I’ve arranged for separatepassage for him to Calais.”“None of the others knows him, then?” said Dewhurst.“No, that’s how I wanted it,” said Finn. “The French governmentis furious with us, you know. They’ve set their spies towatching everyone. I expect they’ll be nosing about in Londonsoon, if they’re not there already. We must take all steps possibleto protect ourselves and St. Just, in particular, especiallysince Marguerite wants me to bring him over for a visit. He’llbe seen with all of us at Richmond and I can’t chance his beingseen with any of our group when he returns to Paris.”“You really believe that the Frenchies will set their dogs onus in London?” Ffoulkes said.“I have no doubt of it,” said Finn. “Pitt says that they’ll be178 Time Wars #3sending an accredited representative to England. You can besure that he will be a spy.”“Well, we’ll be sure to tweak his nose for him,” said Ffoulkes,grinning widely.“You will do no such thing,” Finn said. “When this representativearrives, I expect you to treat him with all due respect,regardless of your feelings. Don’t make the mistake of thinkingyou’ll be safe in England. Don’t underestimate the French.A good card player never gives away his hand, Andrew. TheFrench won’t send a fool.” He got up from the table. “I’ll beupstairs. Let me know when Briggs arrives.”He went up the stairs and, a moment later, Rico followedafter him.“Grim-looking fellow,” Dewhurst said.“When was it that you met him?” Ffoulkes said, watchingRico ascend the stairs.“I can’t recall, exactly. We must not have spoken long, otherwiseI’m sure I would remember.”“I hear all those Italians carry knives,” said Ffoulkes. “Helooks the type.”“If he is, then he’s our man,” said Dewhurst. “St. Just is a bittoo delicate for our sort of work. That chap looks like he mightbe handy in a pinch. I don’t envy him having to stay in Paris,though.”“Well, better him than either one of us,” said Ffoulkes. “Parisis a nice place to visit, but I’d hate to have to live there.” Hesniffed. “Too many of those French girls never wash.”Andre entered the room and softly closed the door behindher. She worked her jaw around in an irritated fashion. “I hatethis damn beard,” she said. “I don’t see how you men can eatwith them. The hairs trap all the food.”“That’s so you won’t grow hungry later on,” Finn said with achuckle. “Relax, you’ll be able to take it off as soon as we’reThe Pimpernel Plotaway from Ffoulkes and Dewhurst. We’d better leave your hairdark, though. Fitzroy hasn’t seen you more than once or twice,but I don’t want to take any chances.”“I’ll make certain that he won’t see me at all,” said Andre. “Istill can’t believe that he might actually be Mongoose.”“Well, we don’t know for sure,” said Finn, “but if you knewMongoose, the whole thing would actually make a crazy kind
of sense. Fitzroy’s the last person we would have suspected, soof course that makes him the logical candidate.”“But Fitzroy was the one who clocked back to Plus Time andreported Mongoose. We know he did that because Cobra ishere with his team of investigators.”“And an assassin or two,” added Finn. He nodded. “You’reabsolutely right. If Mongoose has assumed Fitzroy’s identity,he could have done so afterward. Even if he didn’t, it wouldappeal to his sense of sportsmanship to clock back to Plus Timeand report himself to the one man who would want to get hishands on him more than anybody else.”“But the new director of the TIA didn’t even know about thealtered records until Fitzroy brought the whole thing to hisattention by telling him about the fake Observer, what was hisname?”“Jack Carnehan.”“That’s it. If Carnehan was Mongoose, then how couldFitzroy—”“We only have Fitzroy’s word that there was ever such aperson as Captain Jack Carnehan. Remember, we never sawhim.”“But that doesn’t mean that there was no Carnehan,” saidAndre.“No, it doesn’t. Which is why you’re going to Paris, to findout for sure. The really funny thing is that Jack Carnehan reallydoes exist. There’s no open file on him as a member of theObservers or the Temporal Corps, which is why the new di180 Time Wars #3rector drew a blank, but there is a classified dossier on a Lt.Col. Carnehan. Jack Carnehan is Mongoose’s real name.”Andre looked at him with astonishment. “But that’s impossible!The new agency director would have known that. Hehad access to Mongoose’s records—”“Which Mongoose had altered, “ Finn said, pointedly.Andre frowned. “Yes, all right, it could have worked that way,but then the old director, the one who resigned—”“Darrow.”“He would have known because he knew the old dossier.He would have recognized Carnehan’s name!”Finn nodded. “I’m sure he did.”“Then, why…?”“Because Darrow’s title as Director of the TIA was a cover.He really was the administrative director of the agency beforehe resigned, but he was also the head of covert operations, theagency within the agency.”Andre sat down, shaking her head. “I yield,” she said. “It’sall too much for me.”“Lucas and I felt the same way when Cobra laid it out forus,” said Finn. “Consider the fact that Darrow resigned hispost as agency director. The official reason for his resignationwas that the covert agency’s attempt to take over adjustmentjurisdiction from the Temporal Corps failed. He took the fallfor it and he also resigned in protest over the Referee Corpsassigning control of the TIA to the Observer Corps becausethe agency had gotten out of hand. However, the fact that heresigned served to protect him from the investigation beingconducted by the new administration. The director’s post isprimarily an administrative job. When the new administrationtook over, they found out that the director had been little
more than a figurehead for years. If it’s a known fact withinthe agency that the director doesn’t really run things, where’sthe best place to hide the person who really gives the orders?”The Pimpernel PlotFinn spread his hands out. “In the director’s office, naturally.”Andre blinked several times and gave her head several quick,jerky shakes. “So the director who doesn’t really run things isactually the man—”“Who really does run things, “ said Finn.“What worries me is that I think I’m beginning to understandall this,” Andre said.“Cobra realized that Darrow had to be the head man in covertoperations, or one of the head men, when he found outthat Darrow didn’t say anything when he found out about JackCarnehan. Carnehan was a code-named agent and the headof field operations to boot. Darrow had to have access to hisdossier when he was in the director’s office and he had to knowhis real name.”“But then he would know that Cobra would also know—”“No, he wouldn’t,” Finn said. “Spooks are ultraparanoid.Agents are supposed to know each other only by their designatedcode-names. Mongoose and Cobra worked very closelytogether and developed a special relationship. As a gesture oftrust, they broke regulations and privately told each other theirreal names.”“It seems to have backfired on Carnehan,” said Andre.Finn shook his head. “No, it didn’t. How do we know aboutCarnehan? That was the name he gave Fitzroy, assuming thatFitzroy is genuine. Otherwise, it was the name Fitzroy gave uswhen he made up this fictitious pseudo-Observer. Either way,Mongoose or Carnehan was virtually certain that Cobra wouldbe the one sent to bring him in. By using his real name, whichhe knew would be passed on to Cobra, he was doing two things.He was issuing an open challenge to Cobra, his old partner,and at the same time, he was warning him to watch out forDarrow.”“But by doing that, he also gave himself away,” said Andre.“If he’s Fitzroy, he’d have to know that Fitzroy would be the182 Time Wars #3first person Cobra would suspect.”“That’s assuming he’s Fitzroy,” said Finn. “Even if he is,making himself the logical suspect is something that wouldamuse him. We’re really in no position to do anything withoutproof and he knows that.”“If Mongoose really is Fitzroy,” said Andre, “what happenedto the real one?”“Maybe Carnehan has him stashed away somewhere,” saidFinn. “Or maybe he’s killed him. Or maybe there never was areal Fitzroy. The problem is that he’s got that chronoplate. Withall his years in the agency, he has to have his own contacts.Cobra might know some of them, but he wouldn’t know themall. If we start to get too close and Mongoose gets wind of it, allhe needs to do is to clock out, visit some cosmetic surgeonhe’s had an old arrangement with, get a new face, come back,and start again. You were complaining that you didn’t haveenough responsibility on this mission. Well, you now have themost responsible job of all. You’re going to have to be the oneto tell us the truth about Fitzroy.”
“That boy will be the key,” she said. “If he contacts Fitzroy,we’ll know. What do you want me to do about the boy?”“Don’t do anything. Follow him, if you have a chance. Hehas a brother somewhere that he’s very protective of. You findme that brother.”The Pimpernel Plot10“St. Just can’t help us much this time,” said Fitzroy.Finn and Lucas sat at the small table in his tiny apartmentmaking a short meal of wine, bread, and cheese. Somewherein that very apartment, most likely, Fitzroy kept his chronoplate.It was a tremendous temptation to overpower him then andthere, ransack the apartment, find the plate, and take him prisoner.The only thing that prevented them from doing just thatwas the fact that Fitzroy could well be exactly what he representedhimself to be. If that was the case, given the way healready felt about them, their court-martial would be a foregoneconclusion. The chronoplate could also be hidden elsewhere.“Le Comte de Tournay de Basserive has been condemned todeath, along with his entire family,” said Fitzroy. “The comtesseand her two children are still relatively safe. They’re in Valmy,where they’re being hidden by trusted friends. De Tournay,however, is still somewhere in Paris. St. Just has no idea wherehe is. He was sentenced in absentia and St. Just did what hecould to defend him, but he’s already in disfavor with the restof the tribunal.”“How did he know where the family was?” said Lucas.“The Tournays and the St. Justs knew each other before theRevolution,” said Fitzroy. “They were hardly in the same socialclass, but the St. Justs were not exactly paupers. ArmandSt. Just sent word that the Tournays had close friends in Valmy,a merchant and his wife whose children used to go to schooltogether with Suzanne de Tournay and the young vicomte.”Fitzroy smiled. “Citizen St. Just has been a great help to us,keeping me informed as a member of the league. However,now that de Tournay has been sentenced, it’s only a matter oftime before the soldiers of the Republic trace his family. You184 Time Wars #3must get them out first. We’ll get the old man out as soon aswe locate him.”“Well, at least getting them out of Valmy should be easierthan getting someone out of Paris,” Lucas said. “They’ll stillhave checkpoints manned by soldiers of the Republic, but theirsecurity won’t be as tight, especially since the Pimpernel hasn’tbeen active in that area.”“That’s true,” Fitzroy said, “but don’t allow that to make youoverconfident. I don’t want any mistakes this time. I’ve deviseda plan for you to follow. I want you to pass it on to themembers of the league exactly as I give it to you. If Mongooseattempts to interfere again, I’ll make certain that agent Cobrawill be ready for him.”“That would make a nice change of pace,” said Finn.“Your sarcasm is not appreciated, Delaney,” said Fitzroy. “I’llremind you that it wasn’t agent Cobra who allowed Mongooseto outfox you every time. I’ve made matters nice and simplefor you. All you have to do is follow instructions. Leave Mongooseto those more qualified to deal with him.”“What do you think?” said Andre.
“I think it’s very possible,” Lucas said. “Mongoose alwayswas a slippery customer and Fitzroy has been in the ideal positionto know everything that’s going on. His voice didn’t tellme anything, even though I was paying very close attention toits sound, but then if Mongoose couldn’t learn to disguise hisvoice, he never would’ve made head of field operations.”“It felt a little tense in there,” said Finn. “I hope we didn’tgive anything away.”Lucas shook his head. “I think it’s all right, for now. If Fitzroyand Mongoose are the same, we should have proof of that verysoon.”“I was thinking that he might give me the slip by using thechronoplate to clock directly out of that apartment,” Andre said.The Pimpernel Plot“It’s possible, but unlikely,”- Lucas said. “If he really was anObserver, he’d do that to go from here to, say, Calais. On theother hand, we know that Mongoose isn’t working alone. He’sfound himself a very unusual field man and he’s going to haveto get in touch with him.”“Suppose he doesn’t?” Andre said. “What if he decides to actalone this time?”“He very well might,” said Finn, “but that kid gives Mongoosean advantage and I think he’ll use it. His plan gives himplenty of time to allow us to get in touch with Ffoulkes andthen set out for Valmy. Once we’ve done that, he’ll probablystart putting his own little plan into motion. He can use the kidto get to the comtesse and her children ahead of us while hesets things up in Cap Gris Nez. In order to do that, he’ll have togive instructions to the kid. I don’t think he’ll risk clockingaround inside Paris. It’s too congested. Besides, there’s no needfor him to do that. He has plenty of time. He’ll either go to thekid or the kid will come to him.”“Unless he has already given Jean his instructions,” Andresaid.“That’s one thing he wouldn’t have done,” said Lucas. “He’dwait to make certain we didn’t demand any changes in hisplan before he told Jean what to do. That’s why he allowed usenough time to get back to Cap Gris Nez and get in touch withFfoulkes. Only we’re not going to do that. We’re going straightto Valmy. We’re also going to Cap Gris Nez by a different routethan the one we agreed upon.”“The important thing for you to do is to wait here,” said Finn,“and watch that house. Use your own judgment. If he hasn’tdone anything after several hours or if Jean hasn’t come tosee him, get over there and see if he’s still inside.”“And if he’s not, I will break in,” said Andre.Lucas nodded. “But be very careful. If he’s clocked out frominside that apartment, it’ll mean one of two things. He’s either186 Time Wars #3clocked out with the plate, or else he’s programmed it to remainbehind and clock him back the moment he activates theremote control unit. If that’s the case, you can be sure he’llhave taken steps to protect that room.”“There are several systems he might have used,” said Finn.“I’m familiar with them,” Andre said.“I didn’t finish. You’re familiar with standard equipment. TheTIA uses a different system,” Finn said. “Cobra gave us a briefdescription of it. It’s a more extreme defensive system than
those used by the Corps and the Observers. Now pay attention….”A little over half an hour had passed since Finn and Lucashad departed for Valmy, leaving Andre to watch the safehouse,when she saw Fitzroy leave by the front door. Despite the factthat there was no reason for him to suspect that he might befollowed, Andre still took great precautions to trail him discreetly.She gave him lots of room, keeping back as far as shecould, only closing the distance quickly when he turned a corneror was momentarily lost to her sight. Mongoose, if he wasreally Mongoose, seemed oblivious to her presence as hewalked purposefully through the city street, heading towardthe center of the city.Abruptly, he turned into a side street that led into a smallcul-de-sac, through an alley strewn with garbage. She quicklymoved in when she saw him pass through a doorway into whatturned out to be a small tobacco shop marked only with a crudewooden sign. A name had been carved into the sign and thenthe grooved carvings had been filled in with black paint. Thesign had grown so dark that it was difficult to read the namepainted there, but once she came close, she could see that itsaid, simply, “Lafitte’s.”Cautiously, Andre peered through the grimy window. Shesaw a small room, crudely furnished with several tables andbenches, where customers could sit and drink wine while theyThe Pimpernel Plotsampled tobacco from the jars upon the shelves on the leftside of the room. On the other side of the room was a largeworkbench upon which some carving tools were scatteredaround. She could see some clay pipes stacked and ready forthe kiln at the back of the shop, as well as several meerschaumsin various stages of completion. Some wooden pipes, a noveltyin Paris, had been carved from apple and cherry woodand hung by the bowls on nails driven at angles into the wall.The door was wedged open and Andre could smell the pleasantaroma of strong tobacco wafting out from the interior ofthe shop.Fitzroy stood at a shelflike partition at the back of the shopbehind which was a heavy curtain that separated the shop fromsome back room.“Lafitte!” he called out.An old man with a leathery face and shaggy, unkempt grayhair pulled back the curtain and came into the shop, wipinghis hands upon his dirty leather apron. A large, egg-shapedmeerschaum, colored so deeply that it was almost black, wasclamped between his teeth. He seemed to recognize Fitzroy.“Where is that worthless nephew of yours?” Fitzroy said.The old man shrugged, turned around and pulled back thecurtain. “Jean!” he yelled, his voice sounding like a death rattle.The boy came out after several minutes, holding a broom.Upon seeing Fitzroy, he propped the broom up against the walland joined him at one of the tables. The old man went backbehind the curtain, but Mongoose, for it was obviously he,spoke with the boy in low tones and Andre could not make outwhat they were saying. After a short while, Mongoose rosefrom the table and Andre quickly got out of sight before hecame back out of the shop. She followed him back to the apartment.She waited another half an hour to forty-five minutes, watchingthe house from across the street, then she went up to the
188 Time Wars #3door and went inside. Moving slowly and quietly, she madeher way up the stairs. She paused just outside the door, herback pressed against the wall, her head cocked as she listenedintently for any sound coming from within. There was none.She reached into her pocket and pulled out a length of wire.Pulling on a pair of leather gloves, she shaped it carefully, thenslipped it through the crack in the door, maneuvering it sothat it bent itself around the wooden bar on the other side andthen poked out through on her side again. Very carefully, shegrabbed both ends and slowly, using gentle, steady pressure,worked the bar back bit by bit. When she was done, she replacedthe wire back into her pocket and took a deep breath.Crouching on her knees, away from the front of the door, shereached out and quickly pulled it open, then jerked back.A beam shot out the door at about the level her chest wouldhave been had she been standing. It began to burn its waythrough the thick wall opposite the door. She had perhaps afew seconds in which to act. Staying very low, she dove throughthe door beneath the beam, spotted the assembled chronoplatein the center of the room and quickly moved toward it. Shedidn’t know the failsafe code for this particular unit, but it didn’tmatter. She didn’t need it. She kicked at the control panel, thenran out the door as the defense system shut itself off. She knewshe had only seconds left before the failsafe was triggered.She was at the top of the stairs when the force of the explosionpicked her up and threw her into the wall just above the landing.Stunned, she managed to pick herself up and get down tothe first floor, then out the door.A crowd was beginning to gather, attracted by the noise ofthe explosion and the smoke pouring through the hole in thewall on the second floor. Andre pushed her way through, gratefulfor the fact that none of her bones seemed to have broken.Her face was bleeding from her having struck the wall andher chest and head hurt. Perhaps she had sustained a slightThe Pimpernel Plotconcussion. Mongoose, however, had more serious problems.If he was lucky, he had not been able to react to his alarmquickly enough to activate his remote clockback unit. Otherwise,he had either been caught in the explosion when hematerialized or else he would never materialize anywhere,being trapped forever in the limbo soldiers called “the deadzone.” For the sake of agent Cobra, Andre hoped that Mongoosewas still alive. Personally, she did not much care oneway or the other.The Comtesse de Tournay was an elegant old woman whoconveyed no impression that she had narrowly escaped Francewith her life. To look at her, one would not think that her husbandstill remained behind in Paris, a hunted enemy of thestate. She arrived in Dover attired in the height of fashion,carrying her elaborately coiffed white head high and sniffingwith disdain at the fishy smell of the seacoast town. Her son,the young vicomte, was barely eighteen years old and, like hismother, he carried himself in a grand manner, backramrod-straight and shoulders thrown back. He walked witha cocky swagger and kept his left hand casually resting on thepommel of his sword. Suzanne de Tournay, on the other hand,seemed markedly unaffected, by comparison. She spoke Englishbetter than either her mother or her brother. While they
had been content to remain in their cabins on the Day Dreamduring the crossing, she had kept company on deck with AndrewFfoulkes. With her hat held in her hand, she had allowedthe wind to play havoc with her hair as she breathed in thesalty air and gloried in their newfound freedom while, at thesame time, she shared her concern for her father with Ffoulkes,her rescuer, who had become totally captivated by her.As they entered the Fisherman’s Rest together with Ffoulkesand Dewhurst, Jellyband seemed to be everywhere at oncebowing, wringing his hands anxiously, looking to their com190 Time Wars #3fort and barking orders at his serving staff.“Well,” said the comtesse, speaking English with a thickFrench accent, “I must admit, this is not quite the hovel I imaginedit to be when I saw it from the outside. Still, I trust that wewill not be remaining long?”“Only long enough to have a bite to eat and arrange for acoach to London, Madame la Comtesse,” said Dewhurst.“In that case, the sooner we can dine and be on our way, thebetter,” she said, haughtily. “We have been subjected to quiteenough indignities. Please do not misunderstand, LordDewhurst; I am most grateful to you and this gallant ScarletPimpernel for delivering us from persecution. However, if Ihad to spend one more night in that frightful, smelly little shack,I think I would have gone quite mad.”“It was not so bad, Mama,” Suzanne said, a bit embarrassedby her mother’s remark. “Anyway, all that is behind us now.We are in England! Soon we shall be meeting many otherslike ourselves, who have found new homes here.”“Indeed,” the old woman said, adding another contemptuoussniff. “I am quite sure that it will not all be entirely uncivilized.Still, there is one recent emigre I hope that I shall nevermeet. Have you gentlemen ever heard of a woman namedMarguerite St. Just?”Dewhurst and Ffoulkes glanced at each other uneasily.“Everyone in London knows Lady Blakeney,” said AndrewFfoulkes. “She and Sir Percy are the leaders of London society.Everyone admires and respects her.”“Well, I, for one, do not admire and respect her,” said thecomtesse, stiffly. “What is more, if she is the type of personyou enshrine in your society, I fear that I cannot say muchgood about it. We knew each other, once. She and my Suzanneattended school together. However, it seems that she preferredto learn her lessons at the hands of the Revolutionary tribunal.While our world was collapsing all around us, she helpedThe Pimpernel Plotto pull it down.”“Really, I’m sure that Lady Blakeney—” Ffoulkes began butthe comtesse interrupted him.“Your Lady Blakeney was responsible for the death of theMarquis de St. Cyr. If you prefer to forget such things here inEngland, I can assure you that I recall them quite vividly. Weare in England now and we are grateful for your English hospitality.We shall try not to abuse it. However, should I encounterMarguerite St. Just, I shall refuse to acknowledge her existence.”Ffoulkes leaned close to Dewhurst and whispered in his ear.“This is a most unfortunate turn of events, Tony,” he said. “LadyBlakeney is due to arrive here at any moment. Percy’s ridden
out to meet her coach.”Dewhurst nodded. “With any luck, we can get them upstairsto refresh themselves and then try to head Percy off. It wouldn’tdo to have—”At that moment, a coach was heard pulling up outside. Secondslater, the door to the Fisherman’s Rest opened and MargueriteBlakeney entered.“Lord, I’m famished!” she said. “The air in here smells quitedelicious.” She saw the others and her eyes widened in surprise.“Andrew! Tony! What a delightful surprise! And is that…? It is you, Suzanne! Whatever are you doing here in England?”“Suzanne, I forbid you to speak to that woman,” said thecomtesse, pointedly looking away from Marguerite.For a moment, Marguerite looked both stunned and hurt bythis rejection; but understanding quickly dawned and she recovered,albeit a bit shakily.“Well! What bug bit you, I wonder?” she said, attempting tosound casual.The young vicomte stood up, drawing himself up to appearas tall as he possibly could. “My mother clearly does not wish192 Time Wars #3to speak with you, madame,” he said. “We have no desire tosocialize with traitors!”“See here, now,” Ffoulkes began, but at that moment, thedoor opened once again and Finn walked in, shaking the dustoff of his coat.“Begad, what have we here? “ he said, taking in the momentarilyfrozen tableau.Marguerite smiled a bit crookedly. “Oh, nothing very serious,Percy,” she said, lightly, “only an insult to your wife’shonor.”“Odd’s life, you don’t say!” said Finn. “Who would be so recklessas to take you on, my dear?”The young vicomte approached him, taking a jaunty stancewith his hand upon the pommel of his sword. “The lady isreferring to my mother and myself, monsieur,” he said. “Asany apology would be quite out of the question, I am preparedto offer you the usual reparation between men of honor.”Finn stared down at the boy, putting a look of astonishmentupon his face. “Good Lord! Where on earth did you learn tospeak English? It’s really quite remarkable. I wish I could speakyour language as well, but I’m afraid that the proper accent isquite beyond me!”The lad looked at him with irritation. “I am still waiting foryour reply, monsieur.”Finn glanced at Ffoulkes and Dewhurst in a puzzled fashion.“My reply? What the devil is this young fellow talkingabout?”“My sword, monsieur!” the vicomte said in exasperation. “Ioffer you my sword!”“Begad,” said Finn, “what good is your sword to me? I neverwear the damned things, they’re forever getting in the wayand poking people. Damned nuisance, if you ask me.”“I believe the young man means a duel, my husband,” Margueritesaid.The Pimpernel Plot“A duel! You don’t say! Really?”“Yes, a duel, monsieur,” said the vicomte. “I am offering you
satisfaction.”“Well, I’d be quite satisfied if you went back to your tableand sat down,” said Finn. “A duel, indeed! This is England, mydear chap, and we don’t spill blood quite so freely here as youFrenchies do across the water. Odd’s life, Ffoulkes, if this is anexample of the type of goods you and that Pimpernel import,you’d be better to dump ‘em off mid-Channel. A duel, indeed!How perfectly ridiculous!”Marguerite chuckled. “Look at them, Tony. The French bantamand the English turkey. It would appear that the Englishturkey has won the day.”“You are wasting your time, young sir,” she said to thevicomte. “My husband, as you can see, is far too sensible aman to allow an insult to his wife to make him do anything sofoolish as to risk life and limb in its defense.”“Please let the matter drop, like a good fellow,” Dewhurstsaid to the vicomte, placatingly. “After all, fighting a duel onyour first day in England would hardly be the proper way tomake a start in your new homeland.”Looking a bit taken aback, the vicomte looked from Finn toDewhurst and then shrugged his shoulders. “Well, since monsieurseems disinclined to accept my offer, I will take it thathonor has been satisfied.”“You may take it any way you wish,” said Finn, with a waveof his handkerchief, “but take it over there somewhere. Thiswhole incident has been frightfully annoying. It would be bestfor all if the entire matter were forgotten. Indeed, it’s alreadypassed from my memory.”“Come, children,” said the comtesse. “We have yet to reachour final destination and we would do well to take some rest.We shall dine up in our rooms,” she said to Dewhurst, “wherethe atmosphere might be more congenial, although I daresay194 Time Wars #3that it won’t be a great improvement.”Suzanne was about to speak to Marguerite, but her motherspoke a sharp command and, with an embarrassed, apologeticlook, Suzanne left the room to go upstairs.“Well, I can’t say that I care much for her manner,” Margueritesaid. “That was quite a narrow escape for you, Percy.For a moment, I actually believed that young man would attackyou.”“I daresay I would have given a good accounting of myself,”said Finn. “I’ve raised the fists in the ring with some successon a number of occasions, although brawling in a tavern wouldnot be my idea of sport, you know.”As they spoke, there were a number of other patrons in theFisherman’s Rest, some of whose idea of sport was preciselythat, they had been watching with some interest when it appearedthat there might be an altercation between the youngFrench aristocrat and the older English dandy. When the twowould-be combatants disappointed them, they went back totheir meat pies and ale, all except three men who sat on thefar side of the room in a dark corner. These three all worelong cloaks and huddled together, as though in private conversation,although they did not speak. Instead, they listenedvery closely. One of them, his black hat with its wide brimpulled low over his eyes, nodded to himself with satisfaction.When the young vicomte came back downstairs briefly to tellFfoulkes and Dewhurst that his mother was quite tired and
had elected to stay the night and travel to London the nextmorning, he smiled to himself.“Excellent,” he said softly, in French, to his two companions.“It would seem that several opportunities are beginningto present themselves.”One of his companions nodded. “If we strike tonight andstrike quickly, we can seize the aristos and bring them back toParis for their just desserts!”The Pimpernel Plot“No, no, mon ami,” said the first man. “Put the de Tournaysout of your mind. They no longer matter. We are after biggergame. Those two have proved my theory. I am convinced thatthis Scarlet Pimpernel is an English nobleman and they willlead us to him. Now listen closely, this is what I want the twoof you to do tonight….”Captain Briggs, skipper of the Day Dream, owned a smallhouse overlooking the harbor in Dover. On this night, ratherthan sleeping in his own bed, he was staying aboard the DayDream at Percy Blakeney’s request, so that Armand St. Justand his sister could have some hours of privacy together. Finnhad conducted Marguerite to the tiny, whitewashed house withits neat little garden and then returned to his room in theFisherman’s Rest. After an affectionate greeting, brother andsister sat down to the table for a few cups of tea.“I feel as though I have snuck into England like a thief,”Armand said, smiling. “I hid in Captain Briggs’s cabin duringthe crossing, fearing to venture out. I can well imagine howthe Comtesse de Tournay would have reacted upon seeing notonly a St. Just, but a member of the Committee of Public Safetyaboard the boat that was taking her to freedom!”Marguerite looked at her brother and felt an overwhelmingsadness. At first glance, he was still the same youthful-lookingcharmer, but on closer inspection, she could see that his hairwas now lightly streaked with gray. There were bags underhis blue eyes and his face had a tired and haggard look.“I think Percy is being totally unreasonable, insisting uponour meeting this way,” she said. “You should come and staywith us, Armand, in Richmond. This is—”“No, no, do not blame Percy,” said Armand. “He invited meto Richmond. This was at my insistence. I cannot be gone fromFrance for long and, given the climate of opinion on theseshores, it would scarce serve you and Percy well to be enter196 Time Wars #3taining a member of Fouquier-Tinville’s committee in yourhome. It would be a bit awkward for me, as well. This way, atleast we have some time to spend alone together. Tell me, then,my sister, are you happy here? How is England treating you?”“England treats me well enough,” said Marguerite, “but asto being happy, I cannot recall when I have been so miserable.”“What, is Percy not treating you well? He doesn’t beat you,surely!”“Oh, no, nothing like that,” said Marguerite. “Sometimes Ialmost wish he would. It might even be preferable to the wayhe treats me now. He is polite and attentive, he sees to all myneeds and comforts, but he has withdrawn his love from me,Armand. He has heard the gossip, the stories about the Marquisde St. Cyr—”“Haven’t you told him the truth?” Armand said. “Haven’t you
explained that you struck out at St. Cyr on my account?”“What good would that do?” said Marguerite. “It would notchange what I have done. What am I to tell him, that I spokecarelessly in a group of what I believed to be trusted friends,accusing a man of treason because he had my brother canedfor having the effrontery to express his plebeian love for St.Cyr’s aristocratic daughter? Would that excuse my actions?”“You oversimplify the situation, Marguerite. St. Cyr was atraitor. We both knew he had written letters to Austria, seekinghelp to put down the Revolution. He did not merely haveme caned when he learned of my seeing Juliette. I was nearlybeaten to death. Surely Percy would understand what you didunder the circumstances. You also do not mention the lengthsto which you went to try to save him after his arrest. St. Cyrwas a monster who represented the worst in the old system, adecadent aristocrat who flogged his servants regularly, whoran down people with his coach when they were not quickenough to get out of his way, who—”The Pimpernel Plot“What difference does all that make?” said Marguerite. “Itdoes not change the fact that I informed upon the man andsent him to his death, along with his whole family. It does notchange the fact that in doing so, I became a part of what Percyso abhors about the Revolution. I can well imagine how hemust feel now, having had you brought here so that we couldsee each other once again. He has a wife who was an informerand a brother-in-law who sits upon a committee of ruthlessmurderers whose thirst for blood is infamous. Why, Armand?Why continue with it? Stay here, with me. At least give me thepeace of mind in knowing that you are no longer a part of allthat savagery!”Armand shook his head. “No, my dear sister, I cannot. Thatwe have acted savagely, I cannot dispute. Yet, there must be avoice speaking out for reason in the tribunal. I’ll grant that mylonely voice has, for the most part, been lost upon the wind,but it is a wind that must soon blow itself out. The Revolutionis a force for good. It has brought about a rebirth in our countryand it gives the people hope. But the abuses of the aristocracywill not be easily or quickly forgotten. The beaten dogshave turned upon their former brutal masters and they mustgrowl and rend and tear until they’ve had their fill. This is theway of things, for better or for worse. Until the hate of thepeople for the aristos burns itself out, these executions willcontinue. I find it loathsome, but it is a fact of life. Hard tobelieve though it may seem, good will come of it all in the endand the Revolution will stand in history as a terrible monumentto what can happen when people are pushed too far.Meanwhile, I must remain in France and do what I can, whatlittle that may be, to bring an end to all of it so that we may geton about the business of rebuilding and leave behind the tearingdown. And just as the people’s hate will burn itself out oneday, so will Percy come to understand why you did what youhave done and he will forgive you for it.”198 Time Wars #3Marguerite shook her head. “I wish I could believe that.”“You must believe it, Marguerite. Percy loves you. It is thestrongest of emotions and it soon defeats all others.”“I wonder,” she said. “I know he loves me, Armand, I can
see it in his eyes. Yet, though we live together, we remain apart.We almost never speak, except when necessary, and the onlytrue friend that I had at Richmond, one of the servants, a girlnamed Andre, was sent away by Percy and now I have no oneleft to talk to.”“Then you must talk to Percy,” said Armand. “You must resolvematters between you.”“Believe me, Armand, there is nothing I want more, but Iam frightened. Percy frightens me. I do not know him anymore.I think sometimes that I must be going mad. You haveseen him, you have spoken with him. Have you not found himchanged?”Armand frowned. “I’m not certain what you mean. He has,perhaps, put on a few more airs since last I saw him; otherthan that, he seems the same.”“I tell you, he is a different man,” said Marguerite. “I cannotexplain it, but I half believe that he is not Percy Blakeney, butsome impostor who looks and speaks just like him. I am livingwith some stranger and what frightens me even more is that Iseem to find this stranger even more compelling than my husband.”Armand smiled. “From what you tell me, it seems that Percyis at odds with his ideals. He loves you, yet he hates what youhave done, what he thinks you believe. Such a state of affairsmight well affect a man so deeply that he would seem astranger, not only to you, but to himself, as well.”“Perhaps that is what it is,” said Marguerite. “Still, I cannothelp but think that—”“I’m certain that is all it is,” Armand said, taking his sister’shand. “These are trying times for all of us, Marguerite. WeThe Pimpernel Plotshall simply have to persevere.”She smiled halfheartedly. “Look at me,” she said, “crying onyour shoulder when you have troubles ever so much greaterthan my own.”“They, too, shall pass,” Armand said, patting her hand.“Must you leave so soon?” she said. “I’ve missed you so!”Armand nodded. “Yes, I’m afraid I must. I sail in the morning.Captain Briggs has been good enough to promise to takeme back across. I should not have come, but I missed you, too.Still, there is much needing to be done in Paris.”“Then I shall come to visit you in Paris soon!”“That would not be wise,” Armand said. “Things are unstablein the government right now. I would feel far happierknowing you were safe in England, where a threat to you couldnot be used against me.”“Is it as bad as that?” she said, her face grave with concern.“Yes, and I fear it will grow worse before it’s over,” Armandsaid. “You mark my words, those doing the chopping now mayone day soon find their own necks on the block.”“Then don’t go back, Armand,” said Marguerite. “Why placeyourself in danger needlessly?”“Because it is not needless, my dear. I said that there mustbe a voice for reason and there is precious little reason inFrance these days. If those who feel as I do were to abdicatetheir responsibility, there would be no reason at all.”It was late when Marguerite returned to the Fisherman’sRest. Finn had left the coach with her, but because the inn wasnot far away, she had sent the coachman back to eat his supperearlier, saying she preferred to walk in the cool night air.
As she was about to pass through the door of the inn, she hearda soft voice behind her say, “I always find a walk before bedtimerelaxing, too, Citoyenne St. Just.”Startled, she quickly turned around to see a little, foxlikeman dressed all in black approaching her. He was about forty200 Time Wars #3years old and slender. He held a tiny pewter snuffbox in hisleft hand and beneath his wide-brimmed black hat his sharpfeatures were set in a look of friendly affection.“Chauvelin?” said Marguerite.“It’s so nice to be remembered, Citoyenne St. Just,” he said,with a slight bow.“Not Citoyenne St. Just, but Lady Blakeney now,” said Marguerite.“Ah, yes, of course. I stand corrected. How fares the leadinglight of the Comedie Francaise?”“The former leading light of the Comedie Francais is frightfullybored these days, my dear Chauvelin. And what bringsyou to England?”“Matters of state,” said Chauvelin, taking a pinch of snuff. “Iam to present my credentials to Mr. Pitt in London tomorrowas the official representative of the Republican government toEngland.”“You may find your reception a trifle cool, my dearChauvelin,” said Marguerite. “The English are not very sympatheticto the government in France these days.”Chauvelin smiled. “I am quite aware of that,” he said. “Ifanything, you understate the case. Still, I must do my duty.Besides, I also have other responsibilities. You mentioned thatyou were bored, Citoyenne. I may have just the remedy forthat. It is called work.”Marguerite raised her eyebrows. “Work? Are you saying thatyou would employ me, Chauvelin?”The Frenchman shrugged. “In a manner of speaking, perhaps.Tell me, have you ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?”“Heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?” said Marguerite, with achuckle. “My dear Chauvelin, all of England has heard of theScarlet Pimpernel! We talk of nothing else. We have hats a laScarlet Pimpernel; our horses are called Scarlet Pimpernel; atthe Prince of Wales’s party the other night, we had a souffle aThe Pimpernel Plotla Scarlet Pimpernel.”“Yes, well, he has become rather well known in France, aswell,” said Chauvelin. “In fact, as I have said, I have severalresponsibilities on my mission here. One of my duties is tolearn about this League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. AristocraticFrench emigres have been arousing feeling abroad against theRepublic. I need to find this Scarlet Pimpernel and bring to anend his criminal activities. I am certain that he is a young buckin English society. I would like you to help me find him.”“Me?” said Marguerite. “Why, what could I do?”“You could watch, Citoyenne, and you could listen. You movein the same circles as he does.”“Understand me, Chauvelin,” she said, “even if I could doanything to aid your cause, I would not do so. I could neverbetray so brave a man, whoever he may be.”“You would prefer to be insulted by every French aristocratthat comes to this country?” Chauvelin said. “Yes, I observedthat little drama earlier this evening. If this Scarlet Pimpernel
is not brought to justice, I can assure you that it will be replayedtime and time again, with each new arrival who recallsyour part in the trial of the ci-devant Marquis de St. Cyr.”Marguerite stiffened. “Be that as it may, Chauvelin,” she said,“I will not help you.”“I see,” said Chauvelin. “Well, I am not a man to be easilydissuaded, Citoyenne.” He pointedly ignored her correction ofhim as to her proper title. “I think that we shall meet again inLondon.”Irritated, Marguerite gave him a curt nod of dismissal andentered the Fisherman’s Rest without saying anything furtherto the little Frenchman. Since they had last seen each other inParis, he had developed an oily officiousness she did not carefor at all.There were still several patrons sitting at the tables, despitethe lateness of the hour, among them Ffoulkes and Dewhurst202 Time Wars #3Marguerite said a brief good night to them and went upstairs,only to find that her husband was not in. For a moment, shewondered if she had really expected him to be. She also wonderedabout the pretty blonde girl in Jellyband’s employ. IfPercy was not coming to her bed, perhaps he was going tosomeone else’s.As she prepared to go to bed, alone as usual, Margueritecontemplated all her recent disappointments. The fact thatArmand was only able to spend so brief a period of time withher was only one more disappointment added to the list. Sheunderstood why he had to go back to Paris and why it wouldbe unseemly for him to mingle in the Blakeneys’ social circle.Still, she felt that she had not really been able to tell him halfthe things she meant to say to him. Some things, she thoughtone cannot speak of, even with a brother. She had only beenable to hint at what was really bothering her. She missed herconfidant.As Chauvelin quietly entered the small firelit room, he sawFfoulkes and Dewhurst Iying unconscious on the floor, his twoagents going through their pockets. He closed the door behindhim softly.“Did either of them see you?” he whispered.One of the men shook his head. “No, Citizen. We took themfrom behind.”Chauvelin nodded. “Excellent. Quickly now, let me see whatyou have found.”They passed over the two men’s purses and several papersthey had found on Andrew Ffoulkes. Chauvelin quickly glancedover them.“Anything?” said one of the men.Chauvelin made a wry face. “Several drafts of what appearsto be a love poem,” he said. “It seems that we have wasted our…one moment.” He unfolded a letter and read silently to himThe Pimpernel Plotself, then looked up at his accomplices with a broad smile.“Correction, we have not wasted our efforts. Quite the contrary.”“Have you discovered a clue to the Pimpernel’s identity?”one of the men said, anxiously.“No, but something just as interesting. A letter to the Pimpernel,from a member of the Committee of Public Safety, noless, clearly implicating himself.”
Chauvelin carefully folded the letter and put it in his pocket.“Tear the rest of these papers up and throw them in the fire,but take care to leave some scraps lying on the floor, as if theymissed the hearth. Let them think the robbers went throughall their pockets, destroying anything of no value to them andmaking off with what they wanted. Remove their watches andtheir rings and take these two purses. The fools will never bethe wiser.” He smiled. “I think, my friends, that we may nowcount on Citoyenne St. Just’s complete cooperation.”204 Time Wars #3The Pimpernel Plot11The two men stood upon the bluffs overlooking the Channel,the strong wind plucking at their cloaks. In the moonlight,Finn could see that Cobra was furious.“Better not get too close, Delaney,” said the agent. “I justmight take it in my head to toss you off the goddamn cliff!”“Go ahead and try, if it’ll make you feel better,” Finn saidlightly. “Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.”“I can almost understand why Mongoose had it in for you,”said Cobra. “I’m real tempted to take you on myself. Whoseidea was it to blow the plate?”“Mine, actually,” said Finn, “although to tell the truth, I hadmy doubts that Andre would get the chance. Did a damn goodjob for a rookie, didn’t she?”“Why, Finn? I broke regulations to be straight with you. Whyturn around and stab me in the back?”“For one thing, don’t take it so damn personally,” said Finn.“It wasn’t personal, you know. We both have our orders and Itold you before that my mission comes first. I’ve never likedthe TIA and you know why. For some reason, I find that I actuallylike you. Maybe because you understand the craziness ofit all and try to work around it. I respect that. I’m also gratefulto you for working with me on this thing. I know you didn’thave to.”“Then why in the name of—”“Because, to use your own words, it was a calculated risk. Infact, there were several risk factors involved, but Lucas and Iboth felt we had to go ahead in spite of them. For Andre toattempt breaking into the safehouse was a risk. We could havelost her. Blowing the plate was another risk. It might haveadded yet another element of disruption to the scenario. Fortunately,it didn’t. No one was killed.”206 Time Wars #3“What about Mongoose?” said the agent.“I was just getting to that. In a way, that was the biggest riskof all. If he clocked in before Andre had time to blow the plate,I might have lost a valuable member of our team. If he triedclocking in while the plate was being blown, we might havelost him. I didn’t want to do that, partly for your sake and partlybecause I want him brought in alive.”“The trouble is, we don’t know—”“That’s right, we don’t,” said Finn. “We might’ve lost him,but then, I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the way he thinks. Idon’t believe we have lost him. You know Mongoose. Put yourselfin his place. Your remote unit has just given you the alarm,telling you that someone’s broken in. It’s either some local
burglar or it’s one of us. What are you going to do?”Cobra remained silent for a moment, then nodded. “I see,”he said. “If it’s a local, then chances are the defensive system’staken him out. If it’s a member of the adjustment team, thenthey might’ve gotten by the system and if I try clocking backimmediately, I may get caught in the failsafe detonation or windup in the dead zone if the plate blows while I’m in transit. I’dwait about five minutes, then try the remote unit. If it didn’twork, I’d know the plate was gone.”“There, you see?” said Finn. “You can reason these thingsout if you really try.”Cobra took a deep breath. “All right. Don’t rub my nose in it.I should have thought of that, but I was just so furious withyou that I couldn’t think straight. While I was waiting for you,I actually considered eliminating you, you know.”Finn nodded. “I figured you would. Consider it, I mean. Thereason I was certain that you wouldn’t do it is that you’re apro.”“Well, thanks for that, at least,” said Cobra. He stuck hishands in his pockets and hunched over slightly from the chill.“I’ll accept that the odds are very much in favor of Mongoose’sThe Pimpernel Plotstill being alive. Your having blown the plate eliminates a largedegree of the threat to this adjustment and it’ll make Mongooseeasier to track down. However, that still leaves me witha major problem. My people know about the plate having beenblown. I can’t account for the whereabouts of two of them.”“Darrow’s soldiers?”Cobra nodded.“Well, at least now you know who they are,” said Finn.“I know who two of them are, anyway,” said Cobra. “Somethingmight’ve gone down in Plus Time and Darrow sent oneor more of his people back to contact them and tell them thatthe hit was on. Otherwise, they might have had standing ordersto move the moment they knew where Mongoose was.They know who he is now.”“I want him apprehended just as much as you do,” Finn said.“If he can’t be taken alive, so be it, but I’d rather have him thatway. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have been able to takethat plate out, so we owe you. How can we help?”“At this point, I honestly don’t know,” said Cobra. “With hischronoplate destroyed, it’s just a matter of who gets to himfirst. I’ve still got three people I know I can depend on: one inParis, two in Calais. If Mongoose goes underground, we maynever find him. If he’s smart, that’s what he’ll do.” He grimaced.“However, I don’t think he’s that smart. He’s just wild enoughto take it as a challenge to his abilities.”“That’s what I’m counting on,” said Finn. “I’ve got a problem,too. Now that his cover as Fitzroy’s been blown, I don’thave an Observer to pass on intelligence. He might’ve been aphony, but at least he played straight with me so far as thatwent.”“He had to,” Cobra said. “Since the information came fromthe agency field office, his cover would have been blown immediatelyif he gave you faulty intelligence. I’d have knownabout it, the field office would have known about it, and it208 Time Wars #3might have meant an irreparable disruption. Don’t worry about
it. I’ll take over that function for you.”“It will interfere with your trying to track Mongoose down,”said Finn.“I know. It can’t be helped. I’ve got my loyal operatives lookingfor him; I’ll just hitch up with your team and hope he makesa move toward you. I’ll need a cover.”“We’ll work something out,” said Finn. “By the way, I’ve gotsome information that should interest you. It’s about the boy.”“You found him?”“Andre did. He wasn’t completely honest with us, it seems.He is an orphan, but he’s got an uncle who runs a small tobaccoshop in a cul-de-sac off the Rue de Vaugirard. Knowwhat his name is? Lafitte.”“Jean Lafitte?”“Interesting, isn’t it? You think he’ll grow up to be a pirate?”“I don’t know,” said Cobra.“That Lafayette was born in 1780, in France. That wouldmake him twelve years old right now. The boy’s about the rightage. When he ran his small fleet of pirate ships out of GrandeTerre Island in the Gulf of Mexico, his second in commandwas his brother, Pierre. I’d say it adds up to a hell of a coincidence,wouldn’t you?”“Too much of a coincidence to be ignored,” said Cobra.“Christ! I don’t even know how to begin to handle this.”“You don’t,” said Finn. “Adjustments are my territory. We’realready working on it. Just stay away from the boy. Pass theword on to your people.”“I will,” the agent said. “What are you going to do?”“The first thing we’re going to do is get that kid under control,”said Finn. “Andre was a little hurt in that explosion, butshe still managed to get back to that tobacco shop and enticePierre Lafitte away. She said she came with a summons fromhis brother, that the ‘gentleman’ who hired him had work forThe Pimpernel Plotboth of them.”“Where is he now?”“At Richmond.”“So now you’ve turned to kidnapping.”“I use whatever works,” said Finn. “I’ve got to get that kidaway from Mongoose.”Cobra nodded. “Good luck. Meanwhile, I’ve got some informationyou can use. The Republican government has sent arepresentative to England. His name is Chauvelin.”“Our spy.”“That’s right. We’ll have to be very careful about him.”“We, huh?”Cobra grinned. “How about that? Looks like we’re workingtogether after all.”Finn made a wry face. “Well, it’s about time something onthis mission started making sense,” he said.Most of London society turned out to attend the premiere ofGluck’s Orpheus at Covent Garden. Among those attending theopera were several notable recent emigres from France, noneof whom failed to notice the slight, black-clad man seated besideLord Grenville in his box. Citizen Chauvelin was not unknownto them. The infamous right hand of Public ProsecutorFouquier-Tinville met the baleful glances of his former countrymenand women with a slight smile and a small inclinationof his head. This gesture so infuriated them that they immediately
looked away and ignored him for the remainder of theevening, a reaction Chauvelin found somewhat amusing.“It would seem that you are not entirely unknown in London,”Lord Grenville said to him as the curtain was about togo up on the performance.“Only because I was not entirely unknown in France,” saidChauvelin. “I see a good number of familiar faces here tonight,French men and women enjoying the hospitality of your210 Time Wars #3government.”“We try to be equally hospitable to everyone,” Lord Grenvillesaid, “regardless of their class.”“Yes, we, too, have no regard for class,” said Chauvelin. “Youwill recall our slogan, ‘Liberty, fraternity and equality.’ “ Hesmiled. “Only in England, it seems that some people are moreequal than others.”Grenville’s reply was cut short by the start of the performanceand he turned his attention to the stage. Chauvelin,however, had not the slightest interest in the opera. His attentionwas upon the box adjacent to theirs, where Lady MargueriteBlakeney sat with her husband. Chauvelin’s hand, asif of its own volition, fluttered up to pat his jacket pocket, feelingthe letter hidden there, and he smiled. During the intermission,he excused himself and made his way to theBlakeneys’ box. Sir Percy had stepped out and Lady Blakeneywas alone. It was an ideal opportunity.“Good evening, Citoyenne,” he said, slipping into the chairnext to hers. “I told you that we would meet again in London.”“So you did,” said Marguerite. “How are you enjoying theperformance, Chauvelin?”The little Frenchman shrugged. “To be quite honest, I haveno ear for music, although I find the pageantry of some slightinterest.”“Well, I am glad that we have been able to interest you atleast to some degree,” said Marguerite.Chauvelin smiled. “Yes, well, perhaps I may interest you,Citoyenne. You will recall the discussion that we had in Dover?”“If you recall our discussion,” Marguerite said, “then youshall also recall my answer.”“Indeed,” said Chauvelin. “I was hoping that I could persuadeyou to change your mind.”“My answer still remains the same,” said Marguerite, stiffly.Chauvelin’s smile became even wider. “Yet I remain confiThe Pimpernel Plotdent that I can prevail upon you to reconsider,” he said. “Ihave here a letter which I think will greatly interest you.” Hereached into his pocket and passed the paper over to her. “It isa copy, of course. I retain the original. I am not greatly skilledin these matters, but I have made an effort to reproduce thehand as exactly as I could, along with the signature, to whichI would draw your attention in particular. I trust you will recognizeit.”Marguerite grew pale as she read the letter. “Where did youget this?”“From two young gentlemen named Ffoulkes andDewhurst,” Chauvelin said. “I knew them to be members ofthis League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, you see, so l thought itprudent to have my men …how shall I say it? …incapacitate
them temporarily so that I might examine them for clues. Thisletter was quite interesting, I thought, but folded together withit was another note, from which I learned that there would bea meeting between Andrew Ffoulkes and the Scarlet Pimpernelat Lord Grenville’s ball at the Foreign Office. I trust thatyou will be in attendance?”“Yes,” said Marguerite, in a low voice. She couldn’t tear hereyes away from the paper. It wasn’t Armand’s handwriting,but it was a copy close enough to tell her that Chauvelin hadworked from a sample of the original. “We have been invited.”She swallowed hard and made an effort to compose herself.“You are indeed quite bold, Chauvelin, to assault Englishmenin their own country like a common bandit.”“I had uncommon cause,” said Chauvelin, taking the paperfrom her hands and replacing it in his pocket. “You see, I knowthat the English, above all, insist on the proper form in allthings. As an accredited representative of my government, Icould hardly be accused of doing such a thing without conclusiveproof. Your word would carry weight, I’m sure, but underthe circumstances, I feel confident that you will keep my little212 Time Wars #3secret.”“What do you want?” said Marguerite, her voice barely abovea whisper.“I thought that I had made that quite clear,” said Chauvelin.“I merely want you to listen and observe. Your brother has,quite foolishly, aligned himself with these criminals and hasseriously compromised himself, as you can see. You can wellimagine what his fate would be if this letter fell into the handsof Citoyen Fouquier-Tinville. However, I have no wish to seeany ill befall Armand St. Just. I am satisfied that he is not acriminal, only misguided in his idealism. Still, people have losttheir heads for far less than what he has done.”“Chauvelin, please—”“Do not plead with me,” said Chauvelin. “It would be to noavail. I will make you a promise, however, on my honor. Theday I know the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, your brother’sself-incriminating letter will be in your hands and this copy Ihave made will have been destroyed. Help me to discover theScarlet Pimpernel’s true identity and I will forget all aboutArmand’s involvement in this affair.”“You are asking me to murder a man to save my brother,”Marguerite said.“Consider the alternative,” said Chauvelin. “It is a questionof bringing a criminal to justice or seeing your brother losehis head for his foolishness when you could have prevented it.You see?”“I see that I have no choice.”“We all do what we must,” said Chauvelin. “When you areat Lord Grenville’s ball, watch Andrew Ffoulkes. See who hecomes in contact with. One of them will be the Pimpernel.” Atthat moment, Finn returned to his seat. Seeing Chauvelin sittingin his place, beginning to rise at his entrance, he said,“No, no, do not let me interrupt your conversation. Chauvelin,isn’t it? The French representative?”The Pimpernel PlotFeeling slightly faint, Marguerite performed the introductions.The curtain was about to go up again and Chauvelin
excused himself, saying that he looked forward to seeing themagain at Lord Grenville’s ball. “It promises to be a memorableoccasion,” he said.Lord Grenville’s ball was, indeed, a memorable occasion. Itwas the highlight of the season. The grand rooms of the ForeignOffice were exquisitely decorated with plants and artworksfor the evening and there was a full orchestra on handto play throughout the night. The Prince of Wales arrived togetherwith the Blakeneys. On seeing the Comtesse de Tournayapproaching with her children, Marguerite detached herselffrom the company, anxious to avoid another scene. She needn’thave worried. The comtesse totally ignored her as she sweptpast to pay her respects to the Prince of Wales.“Ah, good evening to you, Comtesse,” the Prince of Walessaid. “Allow me to express my joy at seeing you and your childrensafely in England.”“You are most kind, Your Highness,” said the comtesse. “Ionly pray that my husband will soon be able to join us here.”“I am sure that all here will join in that prayer,” the Princeof Wales said, somberly.“Not all, Your Highness,” the comtesse said, as Chauvelinapproached. She gave him an acid look.“Your Highness,” said Chauvelin, bowing very slightly fromthe waist. “You are looking very well, Comtesse. The climatehere seems to agree with you. I see that there is color in yourcheeks.”The comtesse ignored him. Lord Grenville looked ill at ease.“Welcome, Citizen Chauvelin,” the Prince of Wales said,breaking the awkward silence. “I trust that our English climatewill agree with you, as well. Though we may not be insympathy with the government you represent, nevertheless214 Time Wars #3you are as welcome here as are our friends, the Comtesse deTournay and her two children, whose presence here pleasesus immensely.”“We owe our presence here to that gallant English gentleman,the Scarlet Pimpernel,” said the young vicomte loudly,with a pointed look at Chauvelin.“Please,” said Lord Grenville, touching the boy on the elbow.“Let us try to remember that this evening is—”“Do not concern yourself, Lord Grenville,” said Chauvelin.“I can quite understand the young man’s attitude for your fellowEnglishman. The Scarlet Pimpernel is a name well knownin France. We have as great an interest in this man of mysteryas you English seem to have.”“Everyone seems to be fascinated by this fellow,” Finn said.“He has become quite the rage on both sides of the Channel. Iheard Sheridan say that he was thinking of writing a play abouthim. Perhaps he could use a bit of doggerel I’ve composedupon the subject. You might recommend it to him, Your Highness,if you find it amusing:“We seek him here, we seek him there,Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?That demmed elusive Pimpernel.”Grenville looked pained, but the Prince of Wales chuckledand slapped Finn on the back. “Excellent!” he said. “You musttell me how that goes again, Percy! What was it? We seek himhere, we seek him there….”
Within moments, everyone was repeating it. TheBlakeneyites were chanting it like a Greek chorus. Margueritemight have wondered at the imbecility of it all, but she hadspotted Andrew Ffoulkes talking with Suzanne de Tournay andshe felt a sudden tightness in her stomach.The Pimpernel PlotSometime during the evening, Ffoulkes would meet the ScarletPimpernel. If she did not help Chauvelin unmask this man,Armand was lost. If only she had been able to convince him toremain with her in England! He would now be safe and shewould not be helpless in Chauvelin’s power. She would nothave to betray a man whom all of England admired and respected.She watched Andrew Ffoulkes and felt that everyonecould see that she was watching him. What if she could nothelp Chauvelin? How could she save her brother then?Ffoulkes spoke with Suzanne for several minutes more, thenparted company with her and started across the room.Marguerite’s gaze was riveted to him. As Ffoulkes crossed theballroom, he passed Lord Hastings, who shook his hand andslapped him on the back before moving on. Marguerite stiffened.For a moment, she thought that she had seen Hastingsgive something to Ffoulkes. Yes, there it was, a note! Ffoulkeswas putting it into his pocket, unaware that she had witnessedthe brief exchange. Feeling lightheaded, Marguerite followedhim. Could it be Lord Hastings? Was he the Pimpernel?She followed Ffoulkes as he left the ballroom and entered asmall drawing room which was, for the moment, empty. Heclosed the door behind him. Marguerite felt terrible. She wason the verge of being sick, but for Armand’s sake, she had toknow what was written on that piece of paper. She waited amoment, then opened the door and entered the room. Ffoulkeswas reading the note. He glanced up quickly, fearfully, thenrecovered and quickly lowered the note, attempting to makethe gesture seem casual and inconsequential. He failed.“Andrew! Goodness, you gave me a start,” she said. “I thoughtthis room was empty. I simply had to get away from that throngfor a short while. I was feeling a bit faint.” She sat down on thecouch beside which he stood.“Are you quite all right, Lady Blakeney?” he said. “Should Icall Percy?”216 Time Wars #3“Goodness, no. Don’t make a fuss, I’m sure that I will be allright in just a moment.” She glanced around at him and sawthat he was putting the note to the flame of a candle in a standingbrass candelabra. She snatched it away from him beforehe realized what she intended.“How thoughtful of you, Andrew,” she said, bringing the pieceof paper up to her nose. “Surely your grandmother must havetaught you that the smell of burnt paper was a sovereign remedyfor giddiness.”Ffoulkes looked aghast. He reached for the paper, but sheheld it away from him.“You seem quite anxious to have it back,” she said, coyly.“What is it, I wonder? A note from some paramour?”“Whatever it may be, Lady Blakeney,” Ffoulkes said, “it ismine. Please give it back to me.”She gave him an arch look. “Why, Andrew, I do believe I’vefound you out! Shame on you for toying with little Suzanne’s
affections while carrying on some secret flirtation on the side!”She stood up, holding the piece of paper close to her. “I have amind to warn her about you before you break her heart.”“That note does not concern Suzanne,” said Ffoulkes, “nordoes it concern you. It is my own private business. I will thankyou to give it back to me at once.”He stepped forward quickly, trying to grab the note fromher, but she backed away and, as if by accident, knocked overa candle stand.“Oh! Andrew, the candles! Quick, before the drapes catchfire!”The bottom of the drapes did begin to burn, but Ffoulkesmoved quickly and smothered the flames. While he did so shequickly glanced at the note. Part of it had been burned away,but she could read:“I start myself tomorrow. If you wish to speak with me again, Ishall be in the supper room at one o’clock, precisely.”The Pimpernel PlotIt was signed with a small red flower.She quickly lowered the note before Ffoulkes turned around.“I’m sorry, Andrew,” she said. “My playful foolishness almostcaused an accident. Here, have your note back and forgiveme for teasing you about it.”She held it out to him and he took it quickly, putting it to theflame once more and this time burning it completely.“Think nothing of it,” he said. He smiled. “I should not havereacted as strongly as I did and it’s of no importance. No harm’sbeen done.” He smiled at her and then his look changed toone of concern. “I say, you really don’t look well.”“It’s nothing, I’m just a little dizzy,” she said. “I think perhapsI should step outside and get a little air. Don’t botherabout me, Andrew, I will be fine.”“You’re quite certain?”“Oh, yes, it’s really nothing. You go on, enjoy yourself. I willreturn presently.”She left the drawing room and started toward the exit, makingsure to catch Chauvelin’s eye on her way. He raised hiseyebrows and she nodded. He returned her nod, then turnedto talk to someone. Marguerite went outside.Well, in a few moments, it will be done, she thought.Chauvelin will have the information that will help him learnthe true identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Armand will besaved. And I will have sent another man to his death. She hearda step behind her and turned to face Chauvelin.“You’re being uncharacteristically silent tonight,” Finn saidto Marguerite as they drove back to Richmond in their coach.He had resolved to face his feelings for her head-on and dealwith the situation as best he could. The relationship betweenthem had warmed over the past several days, but now it wasMarguerite who was acting withdrawn. “Is something wrong?”218 Time Wars #3She hesitated for a moment, then the words all came out ina torrent.“It’s Armand,” she said. “He is in terrible danger and I don’tknow what I can do to save him. I fear for his life.”Finn frowned. “You seem quite friendly with the French representative,Chauvelin. Perhaps he can do something?”She shook her head. “It is Chauvelin who holds Armand’s
life in the palm of his hand,” she said. “He has put a terribleprice upon it. To save Armand, I would have to condemn anotherman. I fear that I have already done so. I could not livewith the death of yet another on my conscience!”“Ah,” said Finn, softly. “I see. You mean the Marquis de St.Cyr.”Marguerite began to weep. The stress of the past two daysfinally took its toll and she began to shake uncontrollably, unableto hold anything back.“I never meant for him to die,” she said, her fingers clutchingspasmodically at her dress. “In anger, I spoke out againsthim, wanting to hurt him because he had hurt Armand. Youshould have seen him! When I found him that day, beatennearly beyond recognition…. Yes, I wanted to hurt St. Cyr, Godhelp me, but I did not want him to die!”“Marguerite—”“After the trial, I did everything I could to try to save himand his family. I begged and pleaded, I humbled myself beforethe tribunal, I went to all my influential friends, but it was allto no avail. As if the burden of the guilt were not enough, Ihave had to live with all the gossip and the scorn, hated by myold friends, distrusted by others who believed me to be an informer.Then I met you. I thought that with you, I had anotherchance. A chance for a new life in England, where no oneknew me and perhaps I could forget what I had done, but no,my infamy followed me to London. I never had that chance. Isee loathing in the faces of the French aristocrats who haveThe Pimpernel Plotcome here. I know your friends speak about me behind myback and I know that you have heard all of the stories anddespise me for what I have done. When all of this is over, youwill despise me more!”Finn leaned over and took Marguerite by the shoulders. “Ido not despise you, Marguerite. Whatever else you may thinkof me, I want you to believe that. I am not without some influencein France and I have powerful friends in London. I willdo what I can.”“How could you possibly—”“I said that I would help,” said Finn, “and I will. Trust in me.Armand will be safe. I promise.”“If I could only believe that!”“Believe it.” He pressed her close to him and she put herarms around him. “I know that it’s been very hard for you,”said Finn. “I know that I’ve been terribly unkind. I will make itup to you, I swear it. Look, we are home now. If I’m to try tohelp Armand, there are some matters I must see to. You mustget some sleep. Try not to worry. Things will look better in themorning, you’ll see.”The coach pulled up to the entrance of the mansion andFinn helped Marguerite out. She was unsteady on her feet. Asthe coachman drove the rig down to the stables, Finn huggedMarguerite and stroked her hair reassuringly. She clung tohim tightly, desperately. After a moment, Finn held her away,wiping the tears from her cheeks with the knuckle of his indexfinger. Later, he wasn’t sure which of them initiated thekiss, but it lasted for a long time. When it was over, she gazedat him with an expression that was a mixture of happinessand confusion. She started to say something, but Finn put afinger against her lips.
“Tomorrow,” he said. “Get some rest now. Leave everythingto, me.”220 Time Wars #3The Pimpernel Plot12In the morning, Marguerite awoke with a cry from a nightmare.She had been standing in the Place de la Revolution, allalone. It was dusk. The city was as quiet as a deserted forestclearing as she stared at the platform upon which stood theguillotine, its blade raised and ready to descend. From the distance,she could hear the creaking sound of wooden wheelsand the slow clip-clop of a horse’s hooves upon the cobblestones.A soft breeze began to blow, gaining in strength as thesound of the approaching tumbrel grew closer. Then thewooden cart entered the empty square. The wind was fiercenow and she had to lean into it to stand upright. The tumbrelhad no driver. The tired-looking horse moved slowly, ponderously,as though it found the load that it was pulling unbearablyheavy.Armand stood in the tumbrel, dressed simply in blackbritches and a white shirt that was open at the neck. His handswere bound behind him and his eyes were glazed. It was rapidlygrowing darker in the deserted square. The horse cameto a stop almost in front of her and Armand, moving slowly,regally, stepped out of the tumbrel and began to climb the stepsup to the platform. She wanted to say something, to call out tohim, to run to him and stop him, but she was unable to moveor speak. Armand stopped. He kneeled, then slowly bent overputting his head down. . .She spun around, turning her back upon the sight, and wasconfronted with a crowd of people. The entire square was filledwith people holding torches, hundreds, thousands of them, alllooking at her. She recognized Chauvelin. He smiled, thenpushed another man forward. The man stepped up to her,holding out a paper. She looked down at the paper he held outto her and saw that it was Armand’s letter. As she looked up,222 Time Wars #3she saw that the man holding out the letter to her was theMarquis de St. Cyr. At that moment, she heard the sound ofthe blade descending. She covered her eyes. Somethingbumped against her feet. She opened her eyes and sawArmand’s head lying at her feet. His eyes were open and lookingstraight at her, accusingly. As she stared down in horror,his mouth opened and he said, “Why, Marguerite? Why didyou not help me?”She cried out and sat bolt upright in bed, clutching at herthroat. She jumped out of bed and threw on a dressing gown,then ran downstairs. One of the servants started to approachher, but she ran past him into the dining room. Percy was notthere. From the dining room, she ran to Percy’s den and flungopen the door. The room was empty. She came into the den,looking around wildly, as though he might be hidden somewhere.He was an early riser, surely he could not still be sleeping!He had promised that he would …she looked down at thedesk. She had leaned upon it and knocked over an inkwell.The ink was red. Lying on the surface of the desk was a signetring. She picked it up. It was a design in the shape of a flower.
She dipped the ring into the ink and pressed it down upon apiece of paper lying on the desktop. The imprint was the sameas that she briefly saw on the note burned by Andrew Ffoulkes.It was the sign of the Scarlet Pimpernel.The door to the den opened a little and the servant who hadtried to speak with her moments earlier stuck his head in.“Excuse me, Lady Blakeney, but there is a gentleman—”“Come in,’ Marguerite said, dully, not having heard him.“Milady, there is a gentleman, a messenger to see you. Heinsists upon speaking to you. I’ve left him waiting in the reception…Oh, dear, I see you’ve had a slight mishap. Allowme, my lady….”He pulled out a handkerchief and began wiping up the spilledink.The Pimpernel Plot“A gentleman, you said?” said Marguerite, feeling numb.“Yes, my lady. He was most insistent upon speaking only toyou. I told him that you had not risen yet, but he said that hewould wait.”He picked up the signet ring which she had dropped uponthe desk and began to wipe at it.“Tell him that I will see him,” Marguerite said.“Very well, mi—ouch!”“What is it?”“I seem to have pricked myself,” the servant said. He heldup the ring. “There’s a tiny needle—” He collapsed onto thefloor.“Giles!” Marguerite was down by his side in an instant. Shelistened for his heartbeat. He was not dead. He seemed to beasleep. Carefully, she picked up the ring and looked at it. Thetop of the ring seemed to have been moved very slightly offcenter and now there was a small needle protruding from itCautiously, she tried pressing on the sides of the ring. Whenher finger touched one point, the top of the ring slid back intoposition and the needle disappeared. She wrapped the ringinside a handkerchief and put it in her pocket, then left theroom, closing the door behind her. She called for a servant.“Have you seen my husband?” she said.“Yes, milady. He left early this morning, shortly before dawn.”“Before dawn! Did he say where he was going?”“He did not tell me, milady. Perhaps the grooms mightknow?”“Go and find out immediately,” she said. She hurried intothe reception hall. A swarthy-looking man rose to his feet asshe entered.“Lady Blakeney?”“Yes, what is it that you want?”“I have been instructed to give you this from a gentlemannamed Chauvelin, a Frenchman—”224 Time Wars #3“Yes, I know him, give it to me!”He handed her a letter. She quickly broke the seal. It was anote from Chauvelin and along with it was Armand’s letter.Chauvelin’s note read: You have discharged your serviceCitoyenne St. Just. Your brother will be safe. I leave for Doverthis morning. Adieu. Chauvelin.She continued staring at the note, oblivious now to the man’spresence.
“I have already been paid for my service, Lady Blakeney,”he said after a moment. “I will see myself out.”He hesitated and, when she did not respond, gave her a slightbow and left. He passed the servant she had sent out to questionthe grooms as he left.“Milady, the grooms report that your husband left for Dover,along with Master Lucas and Miss Andre.”She crumpled the letter in her hand. So they are all in ittogether, she thought. Ffoulkes and Dewhurst, Hastings, Lucas,Andre, all of them. The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel—andshe had betrayed them. She had told Chauvelin of the meetingFfoulkes had had with the Pimpernel in the supper room atthe Foreign Office, long after most of the guests had left andthose few remaining were gathered in the parlor. Chauvelinhad seen Ffoulkes meet the Pimpernel and now he was on hisway to apprehend him the moment he set foot in France. Theywere riding directly into a trap and she had set it“Tell the grooms to have my horse saddled at once,” shesaid.“Your horse, milady? Would not the coach be—”“Yes, my horse, damn you! Be quick about it!”With Cobra’s chronoplate, they didn’t have to waste timesailing across the English Channel or riding to Paris. Theyclocked from Dover, where the agent had set up a temporarysafehouse, directly to Calais.The Pimpernel Plot“All right, here’s how it stands right now,” said Cobra. “I’vegot one of my men stationed at Lafitte’s tobacco shop, just incase Mongoose or the boy returns there. There’s been no signof the boy since we took his brother. What’s more, there’s beenno sign of the old man, either.”“What, the tobacconist?” said Lucas. “Jean’s uncle?”Cobra nodded. “He may be working with Mongoose, as well.Something that you don’t know is that before he became headof field operations, Mongoose was section chief in Paris in thistime period. I’m only making a wild guess, but it’s possiblethat Lafitte might have been one of his indigenous field men.”Finn threw up his hands. “Jesus, this is getting nuttier allthe time!”“But it makes sense,” said Lucas. “I was wondering howMongoose was able to dress up as an old woman and make offwith Leforte and still have time to get back to the safehouseand meet us as Fitzroy some ten minutes later. I had thoughtthat he might have taken Leforte directly to the safehouse andhidden him from sight after tranquilizing him, but that wouldstill have been cutting it extremely close. In fact, consideringeverything that he’s been able to accomplish, it would makesense that he was getting help from more than just a 12-year-old boy.”“Wait a minute,” Finn said. “If Mongoose used to be the sectionchief here, wouldn’t the man who came in to replace himknow the—”“Allow me to anticipate you,” Cobra said. “No, not necessarily.Remember, we’re still dealing with a practice that is technicallyillegal. As a result, section chiefs tend to be extremelysecretive about such things. Besides, no one would like to inheritsomebody else’s field personnel. They’d prefer to picktheir own. The old contacts would simply dry up and new oneswould be made. Except in this case, it looks like the old contacts
have been reestablished. The problem is, I have no idea226 Time Wars #3how many of them there might be.”“You’re saying that Mongoose has an indefinite number ofindigenous personnel dancing to his tune?” said Finn“I don’t know,” said Cobra, “but it’s entirely possible. Probable,in fact. He likes to have an edge.”“Terrific,” Finn said. “I’m sure glad you save these little tidbitsuntil they become germane.”“Delaney, you just don’t seem to understand,” said Cobra inexasperation. “I’m disclosing top-secret information to youhere! You guys aren’t supposed to know any of this!”“What worries me is not what we’re not supposed to knowthat you’ve already told us,” Finn said, “but what we’re notsupposed to know that you haven’t told us yet.”Lucas looked at him and frowned. “You want to run that byme again?”“No, I’m not sure I understand what I just said, either,” saidDelaney.“Never mind,” said Cobra. “It doesn’t really matter. There’snothing I can do about it anyway. I’m way out of line in tellingyou as much as I have already. You could do a great deal ofdamage to the agency with what you know now.”“What about the damage the agency has done?” said Finn.“In spite of what you may want to believe,” said Cobra, “theagency is the only thing keeping—”“Let’s not get into this, all right?” said Lucas. “We’ve gotenough problems. The question is, what do we do about St.Just, now that he’s been compromised?”“We get him out,” said Cobra, “and we take the Comte deTournay on this trip, as well.”“When did you have time to locate him?” said Finn.“I didn’t. The local section chief did.”“How many people does the TIA have back here, anyway?”said Finn.“I can’t tell you that.”The Pimpernel Plot“Where are St. Just and the Comte de Tournay now?” saidLucas.“At this moment, they should be somewhere between Parisand Cap Gris Nez,” said Cobra. “They’re going by road becauseby the time they get there, Ffoulkes should arrive intime to receive them. You don’t want them rescued before thePimpernel could have had time in which to do it, do you? He’sdue to arrive in Calais tomorrow, right? By then, the sectionchief’s people should have them here and if Ffoulkes is surprisedat the speed with which you got them out, you can tellhim that the Pimpernel’s agents in Paris were in on it. It’ll almostbe the truth.”“So what’s our next move going to be?” said Andre, who hadbeen silently smoking a pipe all through the discussion, havingdeveloped a liking for it.“First of all, is Pierre Lafitte going to be safe alone at Richmond?”said Cobra.“He’ll be fine,” said Andre. “I’ve got him in the gamekeeper’scottage.”“What did you tell the gamekeeper?” Cobra said, surprised.“The truth,” said Andre.
“The truth?” they all asked, in unison.“Well, something fairly close to it, anyway,” she said. “I toldhim that I was having an affair with Andrew Ffoulkes, thatFfoulkes was a member of the League of the Scarlet Pimperneland that the league had kidnapped the boy because he’sthe son of a French spy we wanted to put pressure on. Ffoulkesneeded a safe place to keep the boy for a week or so and Ithought I could help.”“And he bought that?” Cobra said, incredulously.“Why not? Who’d make up a lie like that?”“Amazing.”“What’s amazing is that in all the excitement, I actually forgotabout that kid,” said Finn.228 Time Wars #3“Believe it or not, so did I,” said Lucas. “This mission hasme going in so many directions at the same time, I can’t evenkeep track of what’s happening anymore.”“Well, in that case, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s almostover,” Cobra said. “The Scarlet Pimpernel ended his careerafter rescuing the Comte de Tournay and St. Just. It was a briefcareer, but a flamboyant one.”“You mean that’s it?” said Finn. “It’s over?”“Not quite,” said Cobra. “This will be your last trip to France,but there’s still the matter of Percy Blakeney to consider.Chances are there’s going to be a relocation and you’ll be relieved,but that can’t happen until the adjustment has beenreported as complete and I can’t clock to Plus Time to do thatso long as Mongoose is at liberty. You’re just going to have tostay here until he’s found and apprehended.”“Hold on,” said Finn. “Maybe you can’t clock forward, butany one of the agency people here can.”“True, but with Mongoose still loose and Darrow’s peoplehunting him, I’m not in a position to spare anybody. I’m noteven completely certain which of the agency people back hereI can trust.”“That’s not my problem,” Finn said.“You’re wrong,” said Cobra. “It is your problem, because aslong as Mongoose is still free, you’re staying right here.”“The hell you say! Suppose he decides to go underground? Idon’t see what else he can do. You might never find him!”“My job is to stay here until I do,” said Cobra.“And what about us?”Cobra shrugged.Jellyband was slightly disapproving as he served them. Heknew who they were and it appeared to him that Lady MargueriteBlakeney and Andrew Ffoulkes were running awaytogether. The fact that they both traveled on horseback andThe Pimpernel Plothad obviously ridden hard from London to Dover seemed toconfirm his suspicions. It wasn’t his place to say or do anything,but he seemed somewhat scandalized.“I feel so damn helpless!” Marguerite said. “We rode hard allthis way and now we can’t cross because of bad weather!”“Take heart,” said Ffoulkes. “If we can’t cross, then no oneelse can, either. If Chauvelin left London for Dover only thismorning, then he could not have had time to sail yet. No boatshave left for Calais since last night. He’s somewhere here, inDover, waiting for a change in the weather, just as we are.
Had I known about this, I would have taken the time to gathersome of the others together and we could have taken him hereand taught him a lesson. Unfortunately, I know for a fact thatChauvelin has other agents with him and I cannot risk goingafter him alone. If anything happened to me, you would beunprotected and Percy might not be warned in time.”“I’ve been an awful fool,” said Marguerite. “I’ve placed myown husband’s life in jeopardy.”“You could not have known,” said Andrew, kindly.She shook her head. “He had become so changed, so distantand secretive that I had actually convinced myself that somethingincredible had happened to Percy and that his place hadbeen taken by some impostor who was his twin!” She laughed,feeling herself to be on the edge of hysteria. “Small wonder heseemed a different man to me! He was living a secret life, notdaring to tell me he was the Pimpernel because he knew I hadinformed upon St. Cyr. Poor Percy! How it must have torturedhim!”“What matters is that now he knows the truth of the St. Cyraffair,” said Ffoulkes. “He doesn’t blame you. No one would. Ican’t understand why you didn’t tell him what really happenedearlier.”“How could I? After what he must have heard, it would soundas though I were making feeble excuses. I was afraid that he230 Time Wars #3might not believe me and …no, that isn’t true. I’m Lying tomyself. It was pride, Andrew, foolish, stubborn, damnablepride! When I realized that he must have heard the stories, Iwas furious with him for not coming to me at once and askingto hear my side of it. I was too proud to go to him and offer anexplanation; I thought that he should come to me. As a result,it has come to this. I have no one but myself to blame.”“That isn’t true,” said Ffoulkes. “You could not help the factthat Chauvelin’s agents attacked us and stole Armand’s letterto the Pimpernel. Nor could you help giving aid to Chauvelinwhen your brother’s life hung in the balance. Have faith, weshall reach Percy in time. Chauvelin will not be certain whereto look for him, while we know where he can be found.”“That may be,” said Marguerite, “but there is still the matterof the Comte de Tournay and my brother.”“If I know Percy,” Andrew Ffoulkes said, “he will see thematter through and rescue both of them.”“That is exactly what I mean,” said Marguerite. “That willbe dangerous enough, but now that Chauvelin is on his trail,how can he possibly hope to succeed?”Ffoulkes smiled. “Don’t forget one thing,” he said. “In Percy’sown words, that Pimpernel is ‘demmed elusive.’ ““You promised!” said the old man, angrily. “You promisedthat we would be safe, that there would be no reprisals!”“In this world, no one is ever safe, Lafitte,” said Mongoose.They were in a small house on the outskirts of Calais whichMongoose had purchased in his days as section chief of18th-century France. Along with several other properties heowned spread out across the globe and throughout time, itwas one of the places he used to get away from it all when hewas given leave. It was one of several places where Lafitteknew he could find him or leave word for him in the unusualevent that their regular procedure had to be abandoned and
The Pimpernel PlotLafitte had to get in touch with him, rather than the other wayaround. It was a simple house, with a slate roof and plankedflooring that showed signs of age. It was sparsely yet comfortablyfurnished and, in the absence of its owner, it was kept upby an old woman whose husband had been lost at sea ten yearsago. She was reliable and fiercely loyal, as were all ofMongoose’s indigenous employees, for he paid them very welland saw to it that their needs were taken care of in his absence.There was nothing about the house to set it apart fromany other in Calais, save for the fact that it had one room inthe cellar that was impregnable. It contained a number of itemsnot native to that time; among them a chronoplate, whichMongoose kept for emergencies.“They have Pierre!” said the old man.“I know,” said Mongoose, whom the old man knew only asMonsieur l’Avenir. “I told you, there is no cause for concern.They will not harm him.”“How can you know?”“I give you my word that Pierre will not be harmed in anyway. Have I ever let you down before, Lafitte?”“No, Monsieur l’Avenir, but—”“Then trust me. There is only one reason why they tookPierre and that is so they will have a hold on you. They do notwant you or Jean helping me.”“Then there is nothing you can do?” the old man said, crestfallen.“For the moment, nothing. But only for the moment. However,rest assured that I will restore Pierre to you. I am certainthat I know where he is. They will not harm him. They onlymean to frighten you.”The old man shook his head, miserably. “It is all my fault. Ishould never have allowed you to bring Jean into this. He isjust a child.”“But a remarkable child, you will admit,” said Mongoose.232 Time Wars #3“He is most resourceful. Already, at twelve, he is an accomplishedliar, a gifted thief, an excellent marksman, and he isutterly without scruples. He has a brilliant future ahead of him.”“You have perverted him,” Lafitte said, glumly.“No. I have only helped him to discover himself. You are anold man, Lafitte. Face it, my friend, you are not long for thisearth. You should be grateful to me for having helped Jeandiscover the innate abilities that he possessed. When it is timefor you to die, you can do so knowing that the boys will not gohungry or uncared for. They will be quite able to fend for themselves.”“I have served you faithfully, Monsieur l’Avenir,” said Lafitte.“Even though I do not understand these secret dealings ofyours, I have done everything you asked me to do without question.If you can assure me of their safety, I shall do anythingyou ask, even give up my life, what little of it there is left tome.”Mongoose smiled. “I can assure you not only of their safety,but of their prosperity,” he said. “They will both become veryfamous men. Jean, especially, will make his mark upon theworld.”“Where is Jean? I had hoped he was with you, but—”“Jean was with me,” said Mongoose. “He does not knowabout Pierre and it is very important that you do not tell himshould you see him. He will not be able to think clearly if he is
concerned about his brother. At this moment, he is performinga service for me. I also have work for you to do, as well.”“Say it and it shall be done.”The weather cleared and Marguerite Blakeney and AndrewFfoulkes were able to sail to Calais that afternoon. They knewthat Chauvelin would be sailing at the same time, althoughthey would probably beat him to Calais upon the Day Dream.“A lucky break for us,” said Ffoulkes. “Percy and the othersThe Pimpernel Plotmust have sailed on another boat, leaving the Day Dream inDover. Perhaps he suspects that someone is on his trail and isbeing extra cautious. I certainly hope so.”“Do you think that we shall reach them in time?” Margueritesaid, anxiously.“I have no doubt of it,” said Ffoulkes, although privately hewas not so certain. He knew that Percy was to meet with himat Brogard’s inn in Cap Gris Nez; however, he was arriving aday early. He had left word for Tony Dewhurst to gather theothers together and proceed on to Calais as soon as possible,but he had no way of knowing when Dewhurst would get themessage. He knew that Percy was very secretive about his plansand chances were that he and the others might have gone onto Paris. If that would be the case, then there was little he andMarguerite could do. other than to wait for their return andtry to get to him before Chauvelin could. Unfortunately, thatwould give Chauvelin all the time he needed to gather hisforces together and by the time Percy and the others returnedto Cap Gris Nez, it could well be crawling with soldiers. Theadvantage that they had was that they knew that Percy wouldgo to Cap Gris Nez, rather than Calais. Chauvelin would wastevaluable time searching for him in Calais. Still, it would nottake very long for him to conduct his investigation and ascertainthat no one had seen a party of English citizens loiteringabout. Once he came to the conclusion that Blakeney wasn’tin Calais, Cap Gris Nez would be the next logical place in whichto search for him.When they arrived at Calais, they quickly made their way toCap Gris Nez and the Chat Gris. Brogard received them in hisusual surly manner and, when questioned, replied that “theEnglish aristo” had, indeed, been there, but that he had left.He did not say exactly when he would return, but he had keptthe rooms that he had taken, as usual, so that it would seemthat he would not be gone for long. Brogard then began to234 Time Wars #3sound Ffoulkes out as to the possibility of selling him somewine. He did so with little enthusiasm, as though he felt guiltyfor being forced to do business with English aristocrats. Havingestablished their cover as oenophiles, the members of theleague now had to carry on with the deception, which meantthat they were forced to buy wine every time they came to CapGris Nez. To curry favor with Brogard, they had bought somewine from him on several occasions. Evidently, he receivedsome sort of a commission from whoever he got it from andhe thus profited by playing the middleman. Undoubtedly, hecheated both parties involved. Ffoulkes didn’t mind that somuch, but the wine he sold them was terrible. They usuallydumped it off mid-Channel, because not even Briggs woulddrink it.
Marguerite fidgeted throughout Ffoulkes’s conversation withBrogard, but she managed to keep silent until he left them.“How can you discuss buying wine at a time like this?” shesaid. “We should be looking for them, instead of—”“Please,” Ffoulkes kept her from going on. “Lower your voice.There may be spies about, one never knows. Brogard believesus to be wine merchants to our well-heeled friends and it isnecessary to keep up appearances. As for looking for Percy,there may be little we can do now. I think it would be best ifyou remained here while I scouted around. Have somethingto eat, you must be starving. The food here actually isn’t sobad. It will fill you up, at least. Then go upstairs and stay in theroom. Do not come out under any circumstances until I return.Please, for all our sakes, you must do as I ask.”She nodded.“Remember that there may be spies about,” said Ffoulkes.“Stay out of sight and speak to no one. Do not admit anyoneinto your room for any reason, not even Brogard. Trust no one.Percy’s life may depend upon it.”Ffoulkes gulped the rest of his wine, grimacing. BrogardThe Pimpernel Plotinsisted upon serving him the awful stuff and he could hardlyclaim that he didn’t like it, since they were buying so much ofit. He then ordered some food for Marguerite and hurriedlydeparted to search the streets of Cap Gris Nez for Percy. Therewas also a chance that he could be at Pere Blanchard’s cottageand therefore Ffoulkes had to look there, as well. There was agreat deal of ground to cover and not much time to do it in.Before he left, he once again reminded Marguerite to remaininside her room, no matter what.Marguerite made a somewhat halfhearted attempt to eatsomething, but she was unable to do much more than pick ather food. She purchased a bottle of wine from Brogard decidingthat even the swill he served was better than nothing andwent upstairs. She closed the door and bolted it, sat down onthe bed and took a healthy swig from the bottle. The taste washorrible, but at least it was wet. Her mouth and throat felt verydry. She thought to herself, the waiting will be the worst part.The waiting was the worst part. Hours went by that seemedlike days. There was no sign of Ffoulkes. It was beginning togrow dark. Where can he be? She thought that surely Ffoulkeswould have returned by now. All sorts of possibilities occurredto her. Ffoulkes had been captured by Chauvelin. Ffoulkes hadinjured himself somehow and was lying outside somewherein the growing darkness. Ffoulkes had found Percy and theyhad both been captured. She brought the bottle to her lips oncemore and was astonished to discover that she had emptied it.Yet, she did not feel drunk. She had always joked with Percythat her capacity for wine was much greater than his, but neverbefore had she finished a whole bottle by herself. The roomsuddenly seemed oppressively hot. She started to get up to crossthe room and open the window, but sat back down upon thebed, involuntarily. The floor seemed to be tilting of its ownaccord.Fool, you fool, she thought, you’re drunk!236 Time Wars #3Of all the stupid things to do and at a time like this! Furiously,she threw the bottle at the wall and it shattered, sending
shards of glass flying in all directions. The window, shethought, I must open the window. Some fresh air will help toclear my head. With deliberate effort, she rose to her feet unsteadilyand took several tentative steps. All right, it was nottoo bad. She was inebriated, but at least she still had somesemblance of control. She was not falling down drunk.Andrew will be furious with me, she thought. She staggeredover to the night table, where stood a bowl of water for washingup. She emptied it over her head. Dripping wet, she walkedover to the window, feeling her way along the wall and usingit for support. The water combined with the chill air outsidewill do it, she told herself. She made it to the window andopened it, taking in deep gulps of air. Her room was on the farend of the inn, the window opening out onto the street. Theentrance to the Chat Gris was just below and to her left. Sheheard the sounds of hoofbeats rapidly approaching and, rememberingwhat Ffoulkes had said, she ducked back out ofsight, pressing herself against the wall beside the open window.The horses stopped in front of the inn and she held herbreath.“Percy!” she whispered. “It must be!”“You men start at the other end of town, I’ll interrogate theinnkeeper here myself. Besides, you’ve had a chance to eatyour supper and I haven’t. I’m told this inn has the only decentfood in all of Cap Gris Nez.”Chauvelin!She heard the horses galloping away; then a moment later,she heard the door downstairs open and Chauvelin call outfor the innkeeper. My God, she thought, he mustn’t come herenow, he mustn’t! She managed to get to the door of her roomand she opened it, ignoring Ffoulkes’s instructions. She wasstill feeling lightheaded, but the wine didn’t seem to be affectThe Pimpernel Ploting her as much now. She closed her eyes and tried to fight offthe dizziness. She could hear Chauvelin and Brogard talkingdownstairs, but she could not clearly make out what was beingsaid. Opening the door all the way, she stepped outsideinto the hall and went to the top of the stairs. She looked downto the first floor and she could just see the table at whichChauvelin sat. His back was to her. Brogard was standing beforehim, she could see the innkeeper from about the shouldersdown.“He was here, you say?” said Chauvelin. “When?”She quickly backed away without waiting to hear Brogard’sreply. The window! It looked out onto the street. If eitherFfoulkes or Percy came now, she could shout down to themand warn them of the trap. She went back to her room andstood by the open window, staring outside, up and down thestreet. She saw a number of other people enter the inn, butnone of them was Ffoulkes or Percy. Could Percy be disguised?Ffoulkes had told her that he had become quite an actor, oftenresorting to elaborate disguises to effect his rescues. If heslipped into the inn in such a costume, perhaps he would notbe recognized, but surely he would recognize Chauvelin andrealize the danger. How long would it be before the soldiersreturned to the Chat Gris?A hand covered her mouth and another pinned her armsbehind her back. She was pulled away from the window.“Not a sound, Lady Blakeney, please.”
Whoever it was spoke to her in English, but he did not soundEnglish. Too late, she realized that she had left her door open.She could not see who was holding her. She began to fightagainst her unknown assailant.“Struggling is useless, Lady Blakeney. I’m much strongerthan you are.”She was forced face-down onto the bed. She tried to fight,but her attacker’s claim was no idle boast. He was immensely238 Time Wars #3powerful. She tried kicking at him, but it was to no avail.“Jean, hand me that rope, will you?”She felt her hands being bound moments later. The manholding her had uncovered her mouth to do the job and sheopened it to scream, but instead found a cloth being jammedinto it. She was astonished to see that the person who hadgagged her so expertly and now stood there grinning at herwas a mere boy. In seconds, she was immobilized, her mouthgagged, her hands tied, and her feet and knees bound together.Suddenly, she remembered Percy’s ring. Working her fingersmadly, she managed to move the top of the signet ring so thatthe tiny needle was exposed. Now if she only had a chanceto—“All right, Lady Blakeney, let’s see if we can’t sit you up andtry to make you a bit more comfortable. At least, as comfortableas possible, under the circumstances.”As she felt his hands on her, she gave a convulsive jerk andthrashed toward him, trying to swipe at him with her handstied behind her back.“What the … ow! Damn bitch scratched me. She….” Thevoice trailed off. Then her hands were seized and she felt thering being wrenched off her finger.For several moments, nothing happened. Then she heard aclearly audible sigh of relief.“Christ, for a moment there, I thought I’d had it.”She felt herself being turned over and she looked up at theface of her assailant. He was of medium height, not as tall asPercy, and he was dark-haired. He had the build of an athlete,he was clean-shaven, and he was good-looking in a menacingsort of way. He smiled and it was an amazingly charming smile.He held up the ring.“You gave me quite a turn there,” Mongoose said. “It certainlywould have been ironic if I’d had this thing turned againstme. However, if he gave it to you, which I doubt, he did notThe Pimpernel Plotshow you how to load it. Fortunately for me, the cartridge hasbeen spent.” He put the ring in his pocket. “You have no ideawhat I’m talking about, do you? I suppose it’s just as well. Jean,get over by the window there and let me know if you see anybodycoming.”The boy complied.“You needn’t stare at me so malevolently,” he told her. “Believeit or not, I’m trying to save his life.”“Three men approaching,” Jean said from the other side ofthe room.“It’s getting awful crowded down there, isn’t it?” said Mongoose.“They are coming inside.”“I rather thought they would. This is beginning to get interesting.”He went over to the window. “I estimate that it should
take the soldiers at least another half an hour, maybe a littleless, to work their way through town. That’s if they’re efficient.”Marguerite was looking around to see if there was anythingthat she could knock over or use to free herself when her gazefell upon the door. The boy had shut and bolted it before andnow something was burning its way through the wooden boltfrom the other side! Her eyes widened as she saw the tiny wispsof smoke curling up from the bolt. It was as though someonewas using a very fine saw on it, but she could see no blade andthere was no sound whatsoever.“More people coming,” Mongoose said. “It’s getting to bequite a—”The door swung open silently, revealing a tall man holdinga small metal tube in his right hand.“Watch out! “ the boy said and, in the same instant, drew aslim knife from behind his neck and hurled it at the tall manholding the tube. It struck him in the chest and he fell, butwhatever sound he made in striking the floor was drowned240 Time Wars #3out by the noise of all the customers downstairs. There weretwo other men behind him, but all Marguerite saw was a thin,brilliant shaft of light that seemed to appear and disappear allin one second. She did not know how it happened, but suddenlythe two other men were on the floor as well, havingfallen out of her line of sight.Mongoose closed the door quickly. He looked at Jean andgrinned. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?” he said. “Ididn’t even know you carried a knife.”Jean bent down over the first man, the one he had killed. “Ithought it was a pistol,” he said. “What is—”“Don’t touch it!”The boy froze.“It’s all right, “ said MongooseMarguerite saw that the man held an identical tube in hisright hand. He bent down and took the other tube from thedead man, then removed two others from the other men.“What is it?” Jean said. “I have never seen a weapon likethat before.” He stared at the tubes Mongoose held. “How canthey kill so … so….”“Never mind,” said Mongoose. “Here, take your blade back.And thanks. You saved my life.”“You would have done the same for me,” Jean said, gallantly.He was obviously proud.“Yes, but what you just did is a great deal more important.Much more important than you could possibly believe or understand.Here, help me drag these bodies out of the way. Overin the corner, there.”“Who were these men?” said Jean, dragging one of them bythe legs across the room.“You might say that they were colleagues of mine, in a way,”Mongoose said, with a chuckle. “A very unusual way.”“I don’t understand.”“It doesn’t matter.”The Pimpernel Plot“They were not the same three men I saw enter the inn justnow,” said Jean. “They are dressed differently. Besides, theywould not have had the time to get upstairs so quickly.”“You’re right,” said Mongoose. “You don’t miss a thing. These
characters were already here. My guess is that they were comingupstairs to take up their positions and they overheard usin here. All this means that we have very little time. No timefor any more questions. From now on, you just listen well andkeep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Whatever happensnext is going to happen very fast.”He looked at Marguerite. “Lady Blakeney, you’ll excuse us,won’t you? Don’t try to get free; you won’t be able to. If you rolloff the bed and onto the floor, you’ll only succeed in makingyourself more uncomfortable and you might hurt yourself.”He opened the door and stepped outside, with Jean followinghim. The door swung shut and Marguerite, finally succumbingto the shock of what she had just experienced andthe effect of all the wine she had drunk, passed out.They ran into Andrew Ffoulkes as they were approachingthe inn. Ffoulkes had-been out to Pere Blanchard’s cottage and,not having found them there, had hurried back to town asquickly as he could. He caught up to them when they werewithin a block of Brogard’s inn.“Ffoulkes!” said Lucas. “Where are you coming from? What’shappened?”“Thank God I’ve found you,” Ffoulkes said, dismounting fromhis horse. “I’ve just been out to the cottage and, not findingyou there, I thought that all was lost! I came with Marguerite—”“Marguerite!” said Finn. “Here? What the hell is she—”“She’s waiting upstairs in the Chat Gris,” said Ffoulkes. “Itold her not to venture forth from her room under any circumstances.We are all in great danger. We came to warn you.” He242 Time Wars #3saw Cobra, registering his presence for the first time. “Who’sthis?”“It’s all right,” said Finn. “This is Collins. He’s one of us, oneof our agents in France. Speak quickly, man, what danger?Warn us about what?”“It’s Chauvelin,” said Ffoulkes.“The French representative?” said Finn.“The French spy. He knows everything. He knows you arethe Scarlet Pimpernel. He has come to France to set a trap foryou. He cannot be far behind.”“Then we’ll have to move quickly,” Cobra said, taking over.“The Comte de Tournay and St. Just will be arriving any moment.Ffoulkes, you’d best get back to the cottage and wait forthem. We’ll send them on to you. Meanwhile, we must go andtake Lady Blakeney from the inn. It is a dangerous place forher to be.”Ffoulkes glanced at Finn for confirmation. “Do as he says,”said Finn. “Quickly!”Ffoulkes swung up into the saddle. “Good luck, Percy. Godspeed!”As he galloped off, Finn turned to Cobra and said, “That wasquick thinking.”“We’ll have to move even quicker,” Cobra said. “Lucas youand Andre take up positions at opposite ends of the street. I’llcover the inn from the outside while Finn goes in and getsMarguerite. If you see any soldiers coming, fire your pistols.That’ll warn us and it may give the soldiers pause, since theywon’t know what they’ll be riding into. The moment Finn’s gotMarguerite safely out of the inn, you all get to Pere Blanchard’shut as quickly as you can. I’ll stay behind to redirect the Comte
de Tournay and St. Just.”“Alone?” said Lucas.“Chauvelin doesn’t know me,” Cobra said. “I’ll be safeenough. Besides, without someone to guide them, they’ll missThe Pimpernel Plotthat footpath down to the cottage in the dark. Now get going.”Lucas and Andre split up, each of them running to take uptheir positions at opposite ends of the street, where they wouldhave a good view of any soldiers approaching. Even if theydidn’t see them in the darkness, they would hear the approachof mounted men and have enough time to fire their warningshots and run for it.“How the hell did Marguerite find out—” Finn began, butCobra interrupted him.“You can ask her later. Right now, let’s get her out of therebefore Chauvelin shows up. We can worry about the fine pointsonce we’re all safely out of France.”They ran to the inn.“Don’t waste any time,” said Cobra.“You don’t have to tell me twice,” said Finn. He opened thedoor and entered the Chat Gris. He noticed that Brogard wasn’tdoing as badly as he usually did. At first glance, he estimatedthat there were perhaps fifteen or twenty customers seated atthe tables. Perhaps it was his imagination, but the momentthat he entered the inn, it seemed to him that there was a brieflull in the undertone of conversation. Standing there, he feltsuddenly very vulnerable.Pull yourself together, Delaney, he thought. This is no timeto have an attack of paranoia.He put an expression of vague boredom on his face andstarted walking casually across the room, heading for the stairsleading up to the second floor. He was about halfway acrossthe room when he heard someone call out Blakeney’s name.For a moment, he froze, then turned around to see Chauvelinrising from a table about twenty feet away.“It is you,” said Chauvelin, beaming. “What a pleasant surprise!Whatever are you doing in France, Sir Percy?”It was with an effort that Finn kept himself from glancingtoward the door. He would simply have to brazen it out. He244 Time Wars #3hoped that Cobra was on the ball. With difficulty, he put a smileon his face and started walking toward Chauvelin’s table.“Odd’s life!” he said. “Chauvelin, isn’t it?”“I am so pleased that you remembered,” said Chauvelin.“Imagine running into you again in a place like this,” Finnsaid. “I thought I’d just pop over and pick up some of yourexcellent French wine.” He extended his hand.Chauvelin also extended his hand. There was a pistol in it.“I think not,” said Chauvelin. His smile disappeared. “I amafraid that your diet will consist of bread and water from nowon. However, you shall not have to put up with such an inconveniencefor long. The guillotine has long been waiting forthe Scarlet Pimpernel!”There was total silence in the inn.“I am sure you’ve got a pistol,” Chauvelin said. “Throw itdown onto the floor. Carefully.”Moving slowly, Finn pulled out his pistol, holding it gingerlywith two fingers, and dropped it onto the floor.
“Now kick it away,” said Chauvelin.Finn complied. Where the hell are you, Cobra? he thought,furiously. If Chauvelin had only allowed him to get a littlecloser….“Drop your pistol, Chauvelin!”The Frenchman’s eyes grew wide as he saw the man twotables away stand up and level a pistol at his head. Finn staredwith amazement at Fitzroy. Looking suddenly frightened,Chauvelin dropped his pistol down onto the table. Before Finnhad a chance to say anything to his rescuer, another voice said“Now you drop yours, Mongoose.”Cobra was standing in the doorway, holding a laser.“You haven’t got a chance, Cobra,” said Fitzroy. “Take a goodlook around you. I’ve got men all around….” His voice trailedoff. Every single customer in the inn held a laser and theywere all suddenly pointing them at each other.The Pimpernel PlotCobra fired, his shot catching Fitzroy squarely in the chest.As Fitzroy fell, Finn dropped to the floor and rolled as the innbecame a violent crisscross of laser fire. He retrieved his totallyinadequate pistol and hid under a table, trying to becomepart of the floor. It lasted perhaps a second or two; then Finnheard somebody moan. Finn looked up to see that Chauvelin,miraculously, stood unscathed, his jaw hanging open. Finnstarted to get up, cautiously. There were dead bodies all aroundthe room.“Shoot him, damn you!”Cobra was on his knees. One arm was gone from the shoulderdown and there was a hole in the side of his face.Bewildered, Finn stared from him to Chauvelin. The Frenchmanstared in horror as Cobra lurched to his feet“Shoot him! Shoot him or you’re a dead man, Chauvelin!Shoot! Shoot!”Even as it dawned on Finn that Cobra was shouting at theFrenchman, Chauvelin moved as if in a trance. His eyes wereunfocused as he reached for the pistol he had dropped uponthe table. As he picked it up, a thin shaft of light lanced outacross the room and neatly sliced his head off. Chauvelin’sheadless corpse remained standing for an instant, then ittoppled to the floor, upsetting the table.“NO!”Cobra lunged forward, bending down to pick up a fallen laser.As his fingers closed around it, a knife struck him in thechest. At the same instant, Cobra screamed and vanished. Theknife which had been sticking in his chest clattered to the floor.There wasn’t even any blood on it.Finn heard a soft gasp and turned to see Jean Lafitte, staringslackjawed at the spot where Cobra had been an instantago. His own eyes bulged when he saw Mongoose standing onthe stairs, holding a laser in his hand as he casually leaned onthe railing. Finn quickly looked to his left, seeing Fitzroy’s body246 Time Wars #3sprawled over a table. Then he looked back in disbelief atFitzroy’s double, who was standing on the stairs. The doublegrinned.“Hello, Finn,” he said. “Long time, no see. By the way, we’reeven.”
The Pimpernel PlotEpilogueThe five of them sat in the living room of Forrester’s suite inthe Bachelor Officers’ Quarters section of the TAC-HQ building.Forrester had broken out several bottles of a fine Napoleonbrandy and Mongoose was swirling his around absentlyin his snifter as he spoke.“Darrow wanted to prove to the Referee Corps that theagency should remain independent of the Observers,” he wassaying. “We had accumulated so much power over the yearsthat neither the Observers nor the Referee Corps suspectedjust how far out of line we were. A good number of us, myselfincluded and Darrow in particular, were using agency resourcesto enrich ourselves. It’s not all that uncommon a practice,really. The temptation to clock back a short way and takeadvantage of market trends, for example, is particularly hardto resist. Right, Forrester?”Forrester gave him a surly look.“It’s all highly illegal, of course, but it’s one of those thingsthat don’t present much of a threat of instability so long asyou’re very careful and act conservatively. It also helps not toget caught. Obviously, the temptation is especially hard to resistfor highly placed officials and Darrow was no exception. Iknew Darrow very well and I knew that he was incrediblywealthy, but I had no idea just how heavily involved he was intemporal speculation until it all came out into the open duringthe past few days. Art treasures stolen by the Nazis that werethought to have been destroyed, gold liberated from pirateswho had liberated it from the Spaniards, 20th-century stockportfolios—”“They really found the Maltese Falcon in his library?” Lucassaid.Mongoose nodded. “Not only that,” he said. “What wasn’t248 Time Wars #3released as part of the official inquiry was the fact that he hadthree adolescent girls in his house whom he had purchased invarious time periods on the white slave market.” He shook hishead. “And I always thought they were his daughters.”“Nice people you work for,” Finn said.“Look, whatever you might think,” said Mongoose, “if I hadsuspected any of this, I would have turned him in myself. Alittle short-range temporal speculation is one thing, but he wentway too far. Beyond the point of no return. He had to protecthimself and his interests, which was part of the reason why hewanted to take control of temporal adjustments away from theFirst Division. What seemed like an ideal opportunity presenteditself when an unstable Temporal Corps recruit named AlexCorderro caused a disruption that resulted in the death of SirPercy Blakeney.“You’ll never see it in any official report because no one hasthe guts to admit to what really happened. Your mission wasan adjustment of an adjustment. The first attempt, with a differentcast of characters, came about as a result of what youwould call TIA interference,” he said, looking at Forrester andsmiling mirthlessly. “Purely by accident, there were a coupleof agents on the scene when Blakeney was killed. Being goodcompany men, they quickly took control of the situation, butinstead of reporting a disruption to the Observer Corps, theyreported it to Darrow. Darrow had a brainstorm. Why not let
the agency handle the adjustment? Leave the Observer Corps,the Referee Corps and the First Division out of it entirely. Letthe TIA take care of it and when it was done, he could comeup with some sort of an excuse as to why the agency had tomove in quickly, without being able to contact the proper authorities.Then, with the adjustment completed, he couldpresent the case to the Referee Corps as proof that we weremore than qualified to handle such tasks. The whole thingwould have been facilitated by the fact that we …shall we say,The Pimpernel Plothad some not inconsiderable influence with several membersof the Referee Corps. The plan was made possible by the factthat our people were on the scene first and by the fact thatCorderro had been shot a number of times. One of the musketballs took out his implant and there was no termination signal.It would be interesting to speculate what would have happenedif no one had been on the scene when Blakeney waskilled. With no termination signal to alert the Observers, wouldCorderro’s death ever have been discovered? Would Blakeney’sdeath have been discovered in time to effect an adjustment?Would Marguerite Blakeney have died of her wound?”“What did happen?” Forrester said.“Darrow put a team together and clocked them out,” saidMongoose. “One of them, like Finn, was given the full treatmentso that he could become Sir Percy Blakeney. The substitutionwas made, as we now know, and the adjustment proceeded.However, none of those people ever made it back. Theysimply vanished. When they did not clock back in on schedule,Darrow started getting nervous and he dispatched severalagents back to see what went wrong. They didn’t comeback, either. At that point, Darrow panicked. It was possiblethat the first team completed their adjustment and got lost intransit while clocking back to Plus time. Possible, but highlyunlikely. They were using the personal chronoplates, whichmeant that they would be in transit one at a time. One or twoof them lost in the dead zone, maybe. But the entire team? Forthe whole team to disappear, as well as those sent after them,the unthinkable had to have happened.“To cover himself, Darrow made a big show of resigning thedirectorship, ostensibly in protest over the agency’s beingplaced under the jurisdiction of the Observer Corps. By thattime, I had returned to active duty and was working in theevaluations section as a result of screwing up on the Timekeepercase.”250 Time Wars #3“Never thought I’d hear you admit it,” said Delaney.“Be quiet, Finn,” said Forrester. “Go on.”“Darrow’s last act before resigning was to reinstate me, clandestinely,as a field operative once again. He needed his mostexperienced agent, otherwise I’d still be sitting at a console.Darrow was afraid to try sending anyone else back. He was onthe verge of a nervous breakdown because, quite clearly, theteam he had sent back messed up somehow and a timestreamsplit had occurred. We put our heads together with a memberof the Referee Corps who shall remain anonymous. This refhad long been sympathetic to the agency and could be trustednot to reveal what had happened to his colleagues, mainlybecause Darrow had something on him. If Darrow went down,
he went down. So, together we reasoned that the original disruptionhad set up what Mensinger referred to as a ‘ripple’and that, at some point, the TIA adjustment team had failed intheir task and caused an event or a series of events to occurthat overcame temporal inertia. Instead of the ripple beingsmoothed out, it branched off into another timeline. The mainproblem was that we had no way of knowing exactly whenthat had occurred or what specific incident or incidents hadtriggered it.“Obviously, having caused the split, whichever members ofthe team survived the incident wound up in the alternatetimeline, which they had created. When Darrow sent peopleback after them, they may have wound up in the secondtimeline, as well. We’re not sure why, exactly. Nothing likethis had ever happened before. Maybe they were lost in transitor caught in some kind of zone of instability and ceased toexist. That’s one for the refs to work on. Frankly, I doubt anyonewill ever know the answer.“Anyway, if we were to assume that Blakeney was the focalpoint of the scenario, then the point at which the original disruptionoccurred was not the split point because we had beenThe Pimpernel Plotable to get our man in and there was still, at that point, aBlakeney in existence, even if it was a bogus one. Naturally,this was all guesswork on our part. We know what happenednow, but at the time, if we hadn’t acted on that assumption, wemight as well have not done anything at all. We figured thatthe split point had to have occurred within the boundaries ofthe ripple. Either the death of our man and our inability tocompensate for it or something he and the team had done orfailed to do had been the direct cause. Only what was that,specifically?”He shrugged. “There was no way on earth that we could tellunless we had been there. Yet, we had to do something. Darrowwas practically hysterical with fear that the timelines wouldrejoin before we could do something to remedy the situation.”“The only way that you could remedy the situation once ithad occurred,” said Forrester, “would be to wipe out that alternatetimeline.”“Precisely,” Mongoose said. “Now you see why it had to be,why it has to be kept secret. Frankly, we didn’t know whatwould be worse, failing or succeeding. There was, however,no alternative.“In order for anyone to be able to clock back safely, theywould have to be sent back to a point before the split occurred.Since we had no way of knowing when that was, we decidedto make certain that whoever was sent back would arrivemoments before the actual disruption occurred.”“You mean that when I arrived in Minus Time, the originalBlakeney was still alive?” said Finn.Mongoose nodded. “It all required careful timing. First itwas necessary for the disruption to be reported, as it shouldhave been right from the beginning. Then it had to be arrangedfor the adjustment team to arrive upon the scene just beforethe actual disruption was to occur, not too terribly difficultbecause we had the connivance of a referee and we’d already252 Time Wars #3been through it once. I underwent cosmetic surgery to become
Major Fitzroy. The real Fitzroy, the one whom Cobra killed inthe Chat Gris, was a genuine member of the Observer Corps,but he was also a TIA agent. The reason for there being twoFitzroys was that our man in the Referee Corps raised the unpleasantpossibility of interference from the alternate timeline.“It was possible that all the members of the first team andthe agents we sent after them had died, but it was also possiblethat, having caused the split, they then tried to clock backto Plus Time. It would have explained their having disappeared.They clocked forward several centuries, but they arrived inthe 27th century of the alternate timeline.“We began playing with scenarios for what might have happened.If the 27th century they arrived in was significantly,which is to say, obviously different from the one that they hadleft, they might have realized what had occurred. They mighthave had the presence of mind to keep their mouths shut andtry to find a place for themselves, if that was possible. On theother hand, suppose they did not immediately recognize thatthey were in a different timeline? What if there was an alternateDarrow heading an alternate TIA and so forth? We couldnot afford to dismiss that possibility, because the moment thatthey reported in, our counterparts in the alternate timelinewould realize that they were the result of a timestream split.We had to ask ourselves how we would react if we were intheir place.“Once the shock wore off, we would realize that we’d haveto take steps to protect our own existence. We’d have to sendpeople back to make certain that events in that particular scenariooccurred exactly according to our history. And we wouldhave the advantage in that the people in the original timelinewould have no way of knowing what our history was.”He paused to take a drink and there was dead silence in theroom.The Pimpernel Plot“If it was me, living in the alternate timeline,” Mongoosesaid, “I would have put that TIA team through an exhaustiveinterrogation. I would have wrung them dry. I would have hadto know everything they knew, because my existence woulddepend upon that information. As it turned out, that was exactlywhat Cobra must have done. He was good. He was reallygood. He knew who our top field operative was, yours truly,and he realized that the people in the original timeline wouldbring in their best people. What he didn’t learn from our agents,he inferred. What he didn’t infer, he got straight from thesource. Meaning, he came to us.“Finn, you arrived somewhat earlier than you thought youdid. You presented a slight problem. Andre and Lucas wereclocked back and immediately sent on to Richmond, whichgot them out of the way. You had to be stalled long enough forus to make certain of several things. The moment you materialized,I had to get to you fast, before the aftereffects wore offand you were fully cognizant of your surroundings. Fortunately,I was able to time it just right. Just as you materialized, I injectedyou with a tranquilizing drug similar to the one we usedon Lady Blakeney. Then, while you were out, I clocked youabout an hour into the past with a fugue program sequence.”Finn nodded. “Clever. I was in limbo for an hour, which allowedthe disruption to occur and gave you time to do whatyou had to do. You must have timed the dose real well, because
I materialized just as I was coming out of it, thinking Ihad just arrived. Nice piece of work.”“What I don’t understand,” said Andre, “is that if we were allclocked back to a point prior to the disruption, then that meansthat the team you had originally sent back would have beenarriving after us. What happened to them?”“Fitzroy and I killed them,” Mongoose said.“Your own people?”“We had no choice. During the hour that Finn was in fugue,254 Time Wars #3Blakeney died, our first team arrived to make their substitutionand as they arrived, we had to take them out so Finn couldthen step into the role of Blakeney. It was the only way. Theyhad to die back in that time period.”“But …but then if you killed them,” said Andre, “how couldthey possibly have gone on to cause the split in the first place?It just doesn’t make sense!”Mongoose smiled. “It does, but it’s a bit of a brain-benderfor a rookie. No offense meant.”“They disrupted the adjustment of a disruption,” Lucas saidto Andre. She looked at him blankly.“Blakeney died,” said Lucas. “That was the disruption. TheTIA team went back to adjust for it, taking advantage of temporalinertia to substitute another Blakeney for the real one.At some point thereafter, temporal inertia was overcome andthe split occurred. In order to negate that, they had to go backand cause yet another disruption. However, in this case, thepeople who would have to adjust that second disruption wouldcome from the alternate timeline, since it was now their historythat was disrupted. We thought that we were adjusting adisruption, which we were, but while we were doing that, wewere being a disruption ourselves. All things considered,” hesaid to Mongoose, “you were putting one hell of a strain ontemporal inertia.”“They had no choice, considering what was at stake,” saidForrester.“The real game began when Finn stepped into the role ofPercy Blakeney,” Mongoose said. “Since we had no way ofknowing what event had caused the split, Fitzroy and I had tomake certain that events proceeded according to our history.We couldn’t clock back to see what had caused the split becausewe didn’t know when that happened. We might haveclocked back beyond the point at which it happened and disappearedjust like the others. So we had to replay the wholeThe Pimpernel Plotscenario with a different cast of characters and make sure thatwe controlled the plot. The moment Cobra showed up, weknew he was the agent from the alternate timeline, sent backto make certain that the split occurred.”“How did you know?” said Andre.“We knew because Cobra, our Cobra, couldn’t possibly haveclocked back to join us. I had been removed from active temporalfield duty for a time while Cobra stayed on as a fieldagent. During that time, he was sent on a mission from whichhe never returned. He was killed by Indians in the AmericanRevolutionary War and his death was witnessed. Unless hehad somehow come back from the dead, this Cobra had to befrom an alternate timeline in which events had proceeded almost
exactly parallel to ours. Who knows, perhaps in the alternatetimeline, I was the one who was killed instead of Cobra.He certainly knew ‘me’ well enough.”“But if you knew he was from the other timeline, why couldn’tyou move against him?” Andre said. “Why couldn’t you tellus?”“Because we were meant to be the Judas goats,” said Finn,grimly.“That’s part of it,” said Mongoose. “The other part is the factthat I couldn’t do anything against him because he was theonly one I knew about. I had no idea how many other peoplefrom that timeline came back with him. At least I knew whoCobra was. At first, I was so paranoid that I began to think thatthere was a possibility that he could have pulled a substitutionof his own and brought in an alternate Finn Delaney. However,Finn disproved that for me most emphatically.” He smiledand felt his left side, where Delaney’s sword had grazed him.“It was necessary for you to think that it was nothing morethan an ordinary temporal adjustment mission. Knowing thetruth about Cobra would certainly have affected your performance.”256 Time Wars #3“But he had plenty of opportunities to move against us,” saidAndre. “Why didn’t he?”Mongoose glanced at Finn.“Because he couldn’t,” Finn said. “He didn’t dare to act untilthe actual split point. His timeline came about as a result ofthe first adjustment team’s interaction with an historical event.That’s why Mongoose had to snatch all the aristocrats awayfrom us. He didn’t know when the actual split point was andhe had to protect the historical events of our timeline.”“Exactly,” Mongoose said. “Fortunately, the Cobra from theother timeline didn’t know that our Cobra had died prior tothis mission. However, he figured that out quickly enough. Ittook a lot of nerve to play it the way he did. He had to improviselike crazy, but he really had you going. We might havebeen stalemated if I hadn’t doubled Fitzroy. That’s the one thinghe didn’t anticipate. Just the same, it was pretty close rightthere at the end.”“I had a feeling something strange was going on when I.walked through the door of the Chat Gris,” said Finn. “Talkabout your Mexican standoffs. Everybody in that place withthe exception of Chauvelin, Brogard, and Lady Blakeney wasfrom another time. And from two different timelines.”Mongoose grinned. “You should have seen your face whenthey all pulled out their weapons.”Finn shook his head. “I imagine it was something likeBrogard’s expression when he came up from the cellar to findhis inn full of dead bodies. If he had come up several momentssooner, he would have seen twice as many corpses, half ofwhich would have disappeared before his eyes. He was shockedenough as it was; I don’t think he could’ve handled that.”“What happened to Chauvelin’s soldiers?” Forrester said.“You decoyed them away?”Mongoose nodded. “That’s where old Lafitte came in. Hemet them as they were approaching and told them he was oneThe Pimpernel Plotof Chauvelin’s agents and that Blakeney had ridden out of town,trying to escape, with Chauvelin hot on his heels. The soldiers
took off down the road to Amiens at full gallop. Chauvelin wasto lose his head in Paris. He just died a little sooner.”“Whatever became of old Lafitte?” said Lucas.“I never saw him again,” said Mongoose. “I told him that hewould have one final service to perform for me and then hewould be on his own. He died soon afterward. He was an oldman.”“That still left you with some cleaning up to do,” saidForrester.“Not much, really. We had to bring Pierre Lafitte back fromEngland. Simple enough. Then we had to take care of Jeanand Lady Blakeney. Pierre and his uncle never knew anythingthat would be a threat to temporal continuity, but Brogard,Jean, and Marguerite had seen things they should not haveseen. They had to be conditioned to forget that they had seenthem. A man from Relocation was sent back to take Finn’s placeas Percy Blakeney and I imagine that they lived happily everafter. The relocation assignment was about as easy and pleasantas they come. Life in the upper crust of London society asan extremely wealthy man with a beautiful and adoring wife.We should all be so lucky.”Andre glanced at Finn and their eyes met for a second; thenhe dropped his gaze, staring down into his glass. He did notlook up again for a long time.“As for Jean,” Mongoose smiled, “I was almost sorry that hehad to undergo conditioning. I really developed quite a likingfor that kid.”“How extensive was the conditioning?” said Forrester.“In Jean’s case, fairly minor. He would remember Monsieurl’Avenir and his peripheral involvement with the League ofthe Scarlet Pimpernel, but he would forget all about the …untimelythings that he had seen. After that, well, it seems he had258 Time Wars #3always hated Paris. He and his brother used to dream of goingto sea and becoming sailors. After their uncle died, they signedonto a merchant ship as cabin boys. They had a fascinatingfuture ahead of them.”“What actually happened to create the split?” said Andre.Mongoose shook his head. “I can only guess. PerhapsBlakeney, our Blakeney, was killed by Chauvelin in the ChatGris and the fact that it was a substitute Blakeney, which alreadyworked against temporal inertia, was enough to causethe split. But then, Armand St. Just and the Comte de Tournaywere due to arrive shortly. They would have been arrested, inspite of Chauvelin’s promise to Marguerite, no doubt. PossiblyFfoulkes and several other members of the league would havebeen caught as well. Whatever it was, that one moment in theinn was obviously the catalyst, because when it occurred orrather, when it did not occur, the alternate timeline ceased toexist.”“Having never existed in the first place,” Forrester said.“But of course it existed,” Andre said, frowning. “Why elsewas all this—”“It never existed in the first place,” Forrester said, emphatically.“It was a shadow, a dream. What happened to the bodiesof those agents from the alternate timeline? They disappeared,because they were never really there.”Andre stared at him, perplexed.“What he means,” said Mongoose, gently, “is that we changed
reality. For a time, our reality was that which we knew, priorto the split. Then, we were dealing with another reality altogether.We changed that. We restored reality to the way itshould have been, the way it was, the way it is. At this moment,as we sit here now, the incident that created the alternatetimeline never occurred. That timeline, along with everyonein it, never existed. It was like a dream.”“A nightmare,” said Forrester, drinking deeply.The Pimpernel PlotAndre shook her head. “No, you can’t play tricks with logicto change what was. For a time, however brief a time fromwhere we sit now, that timeline existed. Those people werereal. There was another world, another universe!”“If we accept that,” Forrester said, “then we must also acceptthat you helped kill them all.” He held her gaze. “Youunderstand?”She remained silent. She glanced at Finn and Lucas, but theywouldn’t meet her gaze. Both men stared down at the floor.“I need another drink,” said Finn.“So do I,” said Lucas.Forrester refilled their glasses.The Adventure Continues.Book Three in Simon Hawke’sbest selling Time Wars series.Lucas took a deep breath.“Unfortunately,there’s no record of how it was done. All weknow is that Leforte was captured trying tosneak out of Paris dressed as an old womanand thrown in the Bastille. The ScarletPimpernel took credit for his escape. Itwould’ve been nice if they could have clockedback to see how it was done. But however itwas done, we’re going to have to be the onesto do it.”“Sure would be nice if we could hop on aplate and jump ahead a few hours so we couldsee how we did it,” Finn said. “But then, we’dhave to do it first before we could see how itwas done. Ain’t temporal physics wonderful?”“It’s times like these that make me wish I’dkept my old job,” said Lucas.Paper OptionalW e Make Books—